Production bodies call for gov’t support as Covid-19 impacts

Peaky Blinders

Production communities around the world have been left reeling as the impact of Coronavirus-enforced shutdowns begins to be felt, with more than 100,000 job losses in the US alone.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a US union body representing 140,000 people working in TV and film production, said it had approved a $2.5m donation to support entertainment charities.

The Actors Fund, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and the Actors Fund of Canada, will use the money to support employees, with the IATSE estimating that Covid-19 shutdowns have resulted in the loss of 120,000 jobs.

IATSE president Matt Loeb called on the US government to offer “emergency relief” for those affected, particularly around healthcare.

“As social distancing measures are enacted and events and projects across all sectors of the entertainment industry are cancelled, it’s become clear that the Covid-19 crisis requires decisive action from our federal government to support displaced entertainment workers,” he said.

Production pauses and country-by-country approach

Hundreds of shows in the US have seen production halted while in the UK, the filming on programmes such as World Productions’ Line Of Duty and Caryn Mandabach’s Peaky Blinders has been paused. BBC Studios has postponed production of continuing dramas such as popular UK soap EastEnders.

Elsewhere, global operators such as Banijay Group have been approaching production shutdowns on a case-by-case basis. “Protecting the health and safety of our workforce and talent remains our priority worldwide,” Banijay told TBI.

“As such, we continue to follow the advice and precautions set by local governments across our footprint. Where we can, we are keeping productions up and running, and for those regions worst affected, the focus has shifted to creativity, development and sales to ensure we continue to service our clients as best we can.”

Earlier this week, the European Producers Club (EPC) – made up of 100 independent film and TV drama production companies – published a 10-point plan to limit the impact of the virus on the continent’s audiovisual industry.

John McVay

UK’s Pact calls for gov’t support

Now, British trade body Pact has also called for government assistance, laying out a range of measures “to support one of the UK’s most successful domestic and export industries.”

These include suspending tax payments – including HMRC liabilities for VAT, PAYE, National Insurance and corporation tax – plus a business rates holiday “for as long as necessary”.

“Secondly, to support our skilled freelance and self-employed workforce, simplify access and processes for state unemployment benefits, freeze all personal credit interest payments and delay the implementation of the flawed IR35 rules,” Pact added, referring to recent legislation around taxing contractors and employees.

“Thirdly, to support our domestic publicly-owned public service broadcasters, increase their borrowing limits to ensure they can support their programme budgets when the current hiatus on production comes to an end.”

On Monday, Pact CEO John McVay told TBI he was worried about small producers impacted by cash flow issues as shows are cancelled or postponed, and for their employees.”

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