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Geater slams BBC, Channel 4 over indie stance

UK indie trade body Pact has slammed pubcasters the BBC and Channel 4 over the pair’s concerns about the changing face of the British production scene.

geater_1Pact has published a report as part of a submission to regulator Ofcom’s Public Service Broadcasting Review that “seeks to correct misconceptions that consolidation within the TV production sector is damaging to the TV industry and that a revised regulatory framework is needed”.

Pact chairman Sara Geater used a speech at the Westminster Media Forum this week to rebuke criticisms of increased overseas ownership and consolidation of UK production groups, and of content and IP ownership.

The BBC is planning on changing its Window of Creative Control, which regulates how much of its content is produced in-house and how much goes to indies, and to create a commercial subsidiary that can produce for BBC channels and rival broadcasters.

Channel 4 chairman David Abraham, meanwhile, last year attacked Viacom’s deal to buy Channel 5 and consolidation in the indie sector that has seen the creation of Endemol Shine Group and All3Media find new parents in Discovery Communications and Liberty Global. Sky also acquired European cousins Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland to create content giant Sky Europe.

Pact described these fears as “myths” and responded with a four point rebuttal.

Firstly it claimed consolidation and foreign ownership was largely irrelevant because the “strength of the idea” was still the key aspect of the business. The body added there were 10 broadcasters commissioning original content, with 400 producers fighting for those deals. “No single indie has a share of PSB commissioned hours greater than 15%, whereas ITV Studios has 18% share and BBC in-house has 21%,” Pact claimed.

Pact also said that thought Terms of Trade mean broadcasters don’t own the content they commission, PSBs took 15% of revenues generated from shows from secondary and international exploitation “without having to do anything”.

It also claimed foreign investment “enables indies to take risks, secure talent and invest in diversity and training” and that if PSBs retained IP, indies could not invest in content, leading to an increase in prices and ultimately the death of the indie industry.

“The indie sector is a great British success story,” Geater said in her speech. “We are able to attract and maintain some of the top creative talent in the world, and the success of the content we create – both creatively and economically – generates many cultural and economic benefits for the UK.

“By trying to make changes to an already fit-for-purpose regulatory framework, the UK would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; losing our global advantage and the revenues and opportunities this has brought to our broadcasting industry”.

These point came out of the Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates report ‘TV Producer consolidation, globalisation and vertical integration – myths and realities’, which the firm created for Pact.