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Time for boom or bust?

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29 October 2010

Is the media industry heading for the dreaded double dip?

Here's the views and opinions of seven TV professionals – from producers, post-producers, financiers through to lawyers - on how confident the industry is feeling about its prospects in the wake of the government spending review and BBC licence fee deal.

John McVay
CEO, Pact

I don’t think the media industry is headed for a double dip but times are tough and the challenges will keep on coming for some time. Indies are resilient and innovative, and everyone is working harder than ever. There has already been a shift towards exploiting rights and forming partnerships with international buyers. However, it is important that the focus on quality UK content remains to attract viewers. We hope broadcasters are mindful of this when reviewing their programme budgets which have already seen significant cuts. Indies are flexible and can adapt during tough times but broadcasters should not assume that suppliers, particularly smaller companies, are a bottomless pit of efficiencies and savings.

Thomas Benski
Md, Pulse Films

With any change comes criticism, but the key is to ensure that the government spending review makes for a more efficient BBC and a more efficient industry, reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit of production companies and channels. The emphasis on broadband and digital will hopefully accelerate the transition to a stronger multiplatform industry and lead to investment from the BBC, other channels and the private sector. It’s also important that projects such as YouView come to market with a clear proposition – another step in the media’s transformation, and I’m optimistic it will help create new opportunities.

Rose Lewis
Partner, Pembridge

The creative sector has a habit of trailing the general economy into and out of recession. If you are in the BBC, there will be a few more years of cost cutting and job cutting, but if you are in the private sector, assuming the economists are right and we manage to miss the double dip, then life could start to lighten up. Sure, these are not boom times, but as long as you are not reliant on the public purse, life will start to get better. Great news? Well, it’s tinged with an element of caution. Just because you may earn more does not mean the chancellor will not be taking it back in taxes. But all in all the creative sector is in recovery.

Peter Hampden,
Director, LipSync

I was relieved that the BBC cuts were not as drastic as some had first feared. However, as a producer and post-production facility that regularly handles high-end drama and films either directly or indirectly for the BBC, alarm bells are ringing. I think it will certainly mean further belt-tightening in the industry, and possibly more closures in Soho for the unprepared. However, I hope it doesn’t lead to a curbing of ambition in terms of project themes or a reduction in production values; we’ll be getting creative and trying to do more with less rather than limiting our vision.

Liz Mills,
Founder and md, MillsyMac

There is little doubt that the next few years are going to be tough as the recession bites deep. However, the licence fee settlement that the government struck with the BBC does at least bring some kind of certainty. It’s imperative that the BBC carries on providing excellent programming over the coming years. Meanwhile, its main rival BSkyB reports record profits with customers rising to almost 10 million - so there are opportunities for suppliers to develop great creative content that can be exploited on an international and multiplatform level. It’s never easy but as more people are staying at home and searching for something to watch, it’s a real chance to win back the viewers and with them the advertisers.

Simon Vyvyan
Md, Industry Media

The indie sector has always been a risky business and there is no better example of this than drama. When ITV was forced into its credit crunch shell in 2009, the impact hit many hard, but Sky was still a commissioning force. Now, eighteen months later, ITV1 is back. The same thing happened at C4. It was unable to invest heavily in drama in 2009 but, with Big Brother gone, now it can. So, whilst it’s hugely important to the sector for the BBC to be well funded, I am optimistic that the mixed broadcast economy is strong enough to withstand a double dip. And if drama can survive, then so too can other genres.

Gareth Wilding,
Sales and marketing director, Fineline Media Finance

As a publicly funded body the BBC enjoys a privileged position which has gifted it a competitive advantage in the commercial market. All public bodies must cut their costs and the BBC is no exception. However this surely presents an opportunity to reappraise “Producers Choice” – the free-market policy loathed by some within Wood Lane was the lifeblood to many in the private sector and could be again. Value for the licence-payer and a revitalised private-sector broadcast services community in one – simples!

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