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Media cuts details emerge

More details have just been published by DCMS about the cuts announced yesterday to the BBC, S4C, the Film Council and the British Film Institute.

The department has published the letters it has written to each of the 39 organisations that it funds, telling them how their budget will change.

You can find all of the correspondence here: http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/7507.aspx.

You can also find Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt's ministerial statement about the cuts here: http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/ministers_speeches/7508.aspx

Interestingly, the BBC is told in its letter by Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt that it must fund a whole host of new commitments - and the first to be mentioned is Hunt’s pet project, Local Media. Hunt envisages 20 local TV stations launching within the next three years, each backed with over £1m in funding from the BBC.

More specifically, the letter says: “The BBC will play an active role in supporting new local television services through a partnership fund providing capital costs of up to a total of £25m in 2013/14 for up to twenty local TV services, subject to any necessary regulatory approval. The BBC will also commit to ongoing funding of up to £5m per annum from 2014/15 to acquire content for use on its own services from these new services.”

Meanwhile, amidst all the cuts, there is some good news. The film tax credit, which has been hugely beneficial to the UK film industry, will remain in place.

Posted 21 October 2010 by Tim Dams

BBC cuts: relief or outrage?

At the end of a day in which the BBC has seen 16% effectively chopped off its budget, the general response seems to be - curiously - one of relief as much as outrage.

Which is remarkable, given that the cuts have come as such a bolt out of the blue - few people realised that cuts to the corporation were even on the agenda until Monday night.

However, context is key. The scale of the cuts across all public services announced today is immense. A £3.45bn funded enterprise like the BBC could hardly stand remote and distant from such a sweeping national savings exercise.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons summed up the BBC’s position in the corporation’s official response to the cuts. “These are pressing times for the nation as a whole, and we believe licence fee payers would expect us to see what contribution we can properly make.”

Many producers are breathing a sigh of relief that the BBC - which has been the subject of relentless political sniping since the coalition government came to power - has at least secured the licence fee for the next six years.

Of course, this is tempered by awareness that the licence fee freeze - plus the additional commitments to pay for the World Service, BBC Monitoring and to help fund S4C - will mean that the corporation will have to make some very difficult choices in the coming years.

The real concern - adeptly spelt out by the Bectu and NUJ unions - is that this will hit jobs, programme budgets and the quality of programmes themselves.

And there is disbelief at how the ‘back of a fag packet’ style negotiations were carried out by the coalition government over the funding of such an important institution as the BBC.

There’s an excellent behind the scenes account of how the dramatic negotiations over the rapid funding settlement played out on Dan Sabbagh’s Beehive City blog (http://bit.ly/dAh2Je).

And BBC historian Jean Seaton explains how the BBC has just managed to preserve the integrity of the licence fee in the face of a near constitutional assault by the coalition government (http://bit.ly/aKNDYo).

Also, here’s links to Televisual’s account of how the key events of the day played out:

Chancellor George Osborne announces the cuts to Parliament: http://bit.ly/96Gosp

The official announcement of the cuts: http://bit.ly/9bJfWb

The BBC’s response to the cuts: http://bit.ly/bOYNyz

Producer response to the BBC cuts: http://bit.ly/cNbRkk

Union response to the BBC cuts: http://bit.ly/cr0LdR

Posted 20 October 2010 by Tim Dams

'Political threat' to the BBC

There is growing speculation that the BBC will take a massive hit in the coalition government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

BBC2’s Newsnight says that the government wants to take a £556m chunk out of the BBC’s budget by forcing the corporation to meet the cost of free television licences for the over-75s. The benefit is currently paid for by the Department for Work and Pensions. The loss of this money would effectively mean a 16% cut in the £3.45bn annual licence fee.

The MediaGuardian, meanwhile, leads today with the story the BBC has put a counter offer on the table to avoid such a huge cut to its budget. Instead, it reports the BBC has offered to pay the World Service's annual £272m-a-year running costs.

The World Service is currently funded by a Foreign Office grant that was set to be slashed by between £70m and £90m as part of the chancellor George Osborne's spending review tomorrow.

It seems clear that, whatever the outcome of these very last minute ‘negotiations’, huge sums of money are going to be stripped out of the BBC’s budget in the spending review.

Until yesterday, it looked as though the corporation was going to escape from the worst of the spending cuts. Last month the BBC Trust agreed to freeze the licence fee until March 2013, which effectively meant taking out £144m from planned BBC budgets.

Now, in a move that smacks of an 11th hour raid on its finances, the BBC looks set to take a far worse hit. This would be terrible news for programme makers and the UK’s creative community, who have already been hugely affected by the recession.

Others go further, and say that it is part of a deliberate attempt to undermine the independence of the BBC.

Respected commentator Steven Barnett, professor of communications at the University of Westminster, had this to say on today’s speculation about possible BBC cuts the Spending Review:

“Transferring the cost of free TV licences for the over-75s from government to the BBC would be a full frontal political assault on the BBC not seen in this country for 25 years. It would mean an unprecedented cut in BBC revenues of £500 million with huge programming consequences for British viewers and listeners.

Barnett added: “The suggestion that this is justified by salaries paid to so-called stars is disingenuous. This is a naked political threat by the coalition government to BBC independence.”

Posted 19 October 2010 by Tim Dams

Animating a Maritime mission

Here's three animated films that admirably show how to convey a lot of complex information in a very clear, informative and entertaining way.

Animation outfit Beakus worked on the three movies for the National Maritime Museum's 'Old Weather' project. The museum is trying to crowdsource as many members of the public as possible to help it transcribe thousands of pages of ship's logs. The idea is that the data will help to fill in gaps in our understanding of what the weather was like in the previous two centuries – helping scientists to understand and predict what the weather will do in the future.

Apparently computers have failed to read the pages of hand-written script, but humans can interpret and transcribe the delicate type - given enough of them.

Beakus used a variety of techniques, from 3d cgi to motion-tracking and 2d motion graphics.

Film one
is called Global Weather Reconstructions and tracks three ships from Britains naval past: The Alfred, The Bugle and The Terra Nova as they travel around the globe.



Film two
is The Art of Crowdsourcing which uses a mix of 2d and 3d motion graphics to the power of crowdsourcing.



And film three, Why Weather Readings Are So Useful explains why weather readings taken at sea can illustrate weather patterns all around the globe.

Why weather readings at sea are useful from National Maritime Museum on Vimeo.


 

Beakus was asked by filmmaker Mike Paterson, who directed all the live action in the films, to create the videos.
The credits are as follows:
Director: Steve Smith
Design and animation: Leo Bridle
Commission: National Maritime Museum & Mike Paterson
Modelling: Darragh Mason
Animation: Luca Paulli
Compositing: Jesse Collett
Sound: Mike Paterson

You can find more info at www.beakus.com.

Posted 15 October 2010 by Tim Dams

TV strikes an upbeat note

If you are looking for signs that the TV industry is pulling out of its two year recession, the past week provided plenty of them.

ITV demonstrated that it is enjoying a storming autumn - and proved the continuing pulling power of TV - with a huge peak audience of 13.8m viewers watching Saturday night’s first live final of The X Factor. It topped this on Sunday with a peak of 14.7m for The X Factor results show, while period drama Downton Abbey attracted over 8m.

Meanwhile, Channel 4’s new chief executive David Abraham was unusually bullish about the broadcaster’s prospects for 2011, predicting that C4’s ad sales would top £1bn. Hitting this symbolic figure, he admitted to a gathering of advertisers and agencies, would partly be achieved by C4 benefiting from YouView and the new UKTV sales contract.

Nevertheless, Abraham’s optimism stands in complete contrast to that of his predecessor Andy Duncan, whose period in charge was defined by the recession and his belief that C4 needed government support to keep it alive.

Elsewhere, last week's Mipcom programme market saw plenty of brisk business. Sellers reported that deals were being done at the market as broadcasters opened their chequebooks and stocked up on new content – in stark contrast to the caution that marked last year’s event.

In fact, there is a growing consensus that the outlook for TV industry is rather bright over the next few years.

Speaking at Mipcom, Marcel Fenez, the global leader of PwC's entertainment & media practice, delivered a very positive assessment of the TV business.

He argued that global ad spend – which plunged 12% in 2009 – would rebound over the next five years, increasing at about 4-5% on annual basis.

More importantly, he said that TV’s total share of ad revenue – currently around 35-36% of all advertising – would actually increase by 2014 to 37%. Crucially, he said it wouldn’t fall away in the face of competition from online.

Online would increase from 15% to 21% of total ad revenue. But this would largely be at the expense of print, particularly newspaper, advertising – and not television.

“People have talked about the demise of television – but we are a believer that that is absolutely not the case,” said Fenez.

Judging by the pull of The X Factor, a bullish C4 and a buoyant Mipcom, he’s absolutely right.

Posted 10 October 2010 by Tim Dams

A Lush crowd-funded eco doc

In these straightened times, crowd-funding has become an increasingly important way to raise money for films and documentaries.

Environmental film The Age of Stupid is perhaps the most high profile and successful example of crowd-funding to date, raising its £450k budget with donations from multiple sources.

Now a new documentary about climate change activism, Just Do It, is also looking for crowd-funding – but it has a particularly pressing deadline to meet to raise its funds.

Lush, the soap manufacturer, has agreed to match Just Do It’s online donations pound for pound up to £10k – but has given the film-makers a 20 day deadline to do it in.

The challenge is to raise £20k in 20 days from October 12, half from the public and the other half from Lush.

Just Do It, directed by Emily James, is billed as “the inside story of the UK’s biggest troublemakers.” Drawn from over 300 hours of observational material that was filmed at events from the G20 in April 2009 to the Copenhagen Climate Summit, it follows protestors from Climate Camp, Plane Stupid, and Climate Rush, as they “pick up the mantle of civil disobedience and go after climate change with all they’ve got.“

The Just Do It team plan to release the film under a Creative Commons license – making it free to watch and free to share. Rather than charging people to watch their film when it’s finished, they are asking people to donate a tiny contribution now, with the funds going directly to production costs.

You can find out more - and donate - at their impressive website: http://just-do-it.org.uk/

Also, for an excellent guide to crowd funding, visit: http://spannerfilms.net/how_to_crowd_fund_your_film

Posted 08 October 2010 by Tim Dams

Morrissey on drama producing

Interview: David Morrissey is one of the UK’s most acclaimed actors, the Bafta nominated-star of State of Play and Red Riding.

He also a director and producer, running his own indie - Stagereel - with his brother Prof. Paul Morrissey. Morrissey’s latest project is Sky1’s new crime drama Thorne: Sleepyhead which airs this Sunday (10th October).

As well as starring in Thorne he developed the piece with author Mark Billingham, and executive produced the series through Stagereel.

The Morrissey brothers previously ran another indie, Tubedale, which co-produced Patrice Leconte’s highly regarded feature The Man on the Train and several David Morrissey-directed shorts and his feature directorial debut Don’t Worry about Me.

Ahead of Thorne's transmission, Morrissey talked to Televisual about his work behind - rather than infront - of the camera.

Why did you decide to go into production and set up an indie?
It’s a desire to do things from a conceptual point of view. Lot of times as an actor you come in late in the process. You leave early and I want to be involved from A-Z really. I wanted to see a process through.

I was always a very nosy actor. I liked being on set even when my character wasn’t called. I was looking to direct and work with writers, but didn’t know to go about getting employed as a director. So I decided to make a short film and financed it myself. At one point I had to draw up contracts and employ people and I had no idea how to do that. My brother Paul was a businessman. So I went to him to help me with the business side of that. And he did that - and enjoyed it.

We made a number of shorts through our company Tubedale. The success of those shorts meant that I got work as a director. Then Paul and I carried on with company and did some co-production deals that I really enjoyed. We worked with Patrice Leconte on The Man On The Train. And we made our first feature which I directed and produced called Don’t Worry About Me.

How did you come to develop and star in Thorne?
I was in New Zealand and I read one Mark (Billingham)’s Thorne books. I liked it and Googled it and found out that he said that if it ever came to screen he’d like me to play the part. When I came back to England I met him, and we decided that Stagereel and Mark would form a company together.

How did you get the commission from Sky?
Sky came to us. We were working on the project, as a company developing it for telly. We hadn’t gone to any broadcasters - we were preparing our pitch and Sky came to us. Mark’s books were already on Sky’s radar. They found out I was involved which they were very happy about - and have been very supportive through whole process.

You can see that their desire for the future is to make a lot more drama and be a big player in that field. And I support that. I’m a big fan of the BBC, ITV and C4 and BBC. There is good room for another strong player in there and everyone needs strong opposition. Sky’s commitment to drama can only be good thing for all of us.

What have you got coming up next?

We have got quite a few things in development. We’re developing two films with the UK Film Council before they go under. And there’s a couple of TV projects that we’re working on as well.

What’s your sense of the outlook for British TV drama right now?
Every industry in Britain is having to face terrible cuts - the police, health and education - and even drama. It is going to be tough. But I would say that when I look at the screen, things like This is England ’86 and Sherlock show there is great drama being made. I travel around the world a lot and we have got a lot to be proud of and we need to encourage that.

Posted 07 October 2010 by Tim Dams

Stars hit Cannes as deals flow

Mipcom day three: From Robert Redford through to Mad Men’s Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Kiss front man Gene Simmons, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matt Lucas and Stephen Fry, there’s been an unusually large number of TV, film and music stars flying into Mipcom this week to promote their latest ventures. Veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost even flew in to interview Oliver Stone about his new project, The Untold History of the United States.

Not all the stars, however, were happy to be in the south of France. Stephen Fry, here to talk up his new series on the English language, tweeted mid-way through the market that he was “stuck in Cannes in arse-paralysingly dull meetings.”

Within the Palais itself, many others were probably thinking the same thing: one could sense buyers and sellers' energy levels starting to flag by the end of Wednesday after long days of deal-making and long nights of eating and drinking.

However, most sellers were still expressing optimism about how the market was going, saying that it had picked up decidedly since last year.

All3Media chief executive Louise Pedersen commented: “We are very positive about the state of the market - there is a lot of strong interest in shows across our catalogue and buyers seem to have the budgets to acquire across all genres - with drama, formats and factual entertainment being in demand.” She added that growth in DTT and IPTV channels had increased the demand for new programmes.

That said, many of the deals being announced were of the bread and butter kind that help fill schedules. Many buyers complained there was not enough ‘stand out’ new programming at the market, partly because the recession has meant less projects going into production.

In the meantime, here’s a round-up of the latest deals:

- Channel 4 acquired Arthurian tale Camelot from GK-tv, and plans to launch the series in 2011. The series stars Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur, Joseph Fiennes as Merlin, Eva Green as Morgan, and Tamsin Egerton as Guinevere. Camelot is a co-production between Ireland’s Octagon and Take 5 Productions in Canada, and is executive produced by Ecosse Films’ Douglas Rae. Graham King (The Departed) along with Tim Headington and Craig Cegielski also executive produce. Other international buyers include RTL (Netherlands), DBS (Israel) and Sony Pictures Television’s AXN Beyond (Pan-Asia).

- Living in the UK has picked up Customs Series 3 (12 x 30-mins) from Electric Sky. Made by Favourite Films for Nine Network, Australia, it follows the work of Border Agency sniffer-dogs and their handlers. Customs Series 3 will be renamed as Nothing to Declare for Living.

- BBC Worldwide struck a raft of deals in Russia. It sold Spooks to Fox Television, which will see the spy drama broadcast across the CIS and Baltic states. Fox TV also acquired ITV romantic comedy Married, Single Other and thriller Silent Witness. Meanwhile, Russia’s Channel Five acquired Sherlock and 225 hours of mixed genre programming; Russia’s Kultura channel has picked up 84 hours of programming including History of Science, Wonders of the Solar System, Lennon Naked and Muddle Earth; And Slovak TV (Slovakia) bought a 52 hour package including Life and The Human Planet.

- DRG sold Don’t Tell The Bride, created by Renegade Pictures for BBC Three, to multiple European territories. Sales include RTL (Netherlands), TV4 (Sweden), Nelonen (Finland), TV2 (Denmark), TV2 (Hungary) and BBC Worldwide Channels which has acquired the series for BBC Entertainment in Latin America and BBC Lifestyle in Africa.The Don’t Tell the Bride format was also sold to ANT1 TV in Greece, where it will be produced by Studio Ata. Don’t Tell The Bride is now being produced locally in seven countries worldwide.

- BBC Worldwide sold 26 hours of content from the BBC’s Natural History Unit to Australia’s Nine Network. The deal includes the pre-sale of Frozen Planet to Channel Nine. Other natural history content will air on Nine’s new digital platform GEM, including Wild South America: Andes to Amazon, Wild Caribbean, and David Attenborough’s 10-part series Life of Mammals.

- Electric Sky sold a package of male skewed titles to Sweden’s Viasat including Miles to Surf (1 x 50') by Troy Frizzell Productions in Conjunction With Major Surf Corp; Supercar Run Featuring Jodie Kidd (1 x 47’) by Camera CHY Productions, Total Adventure (26 x 30') by Creative Touch Films Production for National Geographic, Finding Genghis (6 x 30’) by Cambridge Film and Television Productions for National Geographic, and The Fatal Eleven (1 x 44’) by German producer ColourFIELD on behalf of WDR for ARD. Electric Sky also sold titles to the Living Channel in New Zealand, including A Place in the Sun Down Under (3 x 60’) and A Million Pound Place in the Sun. Both series are produced by Freeform for Channel Four

- Discovery Communications announced new programming deals with European third party broadcasters to air 200 hours of its content. France broadcaster TF1’s free digital terrestrial channels NT1 and TMC will air the latest seasons of Deadliest Catch and Man vs. Wild. Italy’s RTI-Mediaset Group picked up fact ent shows including Man vs. Wild, I Was Bitten and Untamed and Uncut to air on Italia Uno in the network’s “Wild” primetime slot. Spain’s La Sexta acquired Next World, Destroyed in Seconds or Prototype This!. In addition, Spanish broadcaster Cuatro has acquired season 4 of Man vs. Wild and Not Your Average Travel Guide. Greek broadcaster Alpha TV bought Nostradmus, The Flight that Fought Back and Last Mysteries of the Titanic.

- Off The Fence (OTF) sold over 500 hours to leading African broadcasters. Over 370 hours of programming was sold to Wananchi Programming for their new Zuku Afrika and Zuku Life channels launching this month in East Africa. Wananchi bought a range of titles including The Locator (44x30’), Amazing Wedding Cakes (33x60’), Magnificent Obsessions (48x30’), Stories from the Vaults (14x26’), Equator (6x50’), Most Extreme Series One and Two (26x60’), Shamwari – A Wildlife (26x26’) and Future Earth: Journey to the End of the World (1x50’). Namibia Broadcasting Corporation bought 50 hours of programming for their free to air channel including Shamwari (26x26’), Extinction Sucks (6x30’), Nature’s Greatest Moments (158x5’), Man Made Marvels Series One (6x60’) and Sharkville (1x50’). South African broadcaster On Digital Media picked up 39 hours in a deal for TOP TV, including Magnificent Obsessions (48x30’) and Reservations Required (30x30’).

- BBC Worldwide licensed 27 classic television titles to Australian free-to-air digital channel 7TWO, in a deal that delivers over 500 hours of content, including Are you Being Served?, The Good Life, To the Manor Born and Keeping up Appearances. Jonathan Creek, All Creatures Great and Small, Born and Bred, Bargain Hunt, The Hairy Bikers Cookbook and James Martin’s Favourite Feasts are included in the deal.

- BBC Worldwide also sold 26 hours of content from the BBC’s Natural History Unit to Australia’s Nine Network. The deal includes the pre-sale of Frozen Planet to Channel Nine. Other natural history content will air on Nine’s new digital platform GEM, including Wild South America: Andes to Amazon, Wild Caribbean, and David Attenborough’s 10-part series Life of Mammals.

Posted 07 October 2010 by Tim Dams
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