UK public broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4 must be given “greater clarity” over their futures to enable the UK production industry to flourish, according to Banijay UK chairman Patrick Holland.
The UK government has been exploring plans to scrap the BBC’s licence fee as well as to privatise commercially-funded Channel 4, although several rapid changes in prime ministers and cabinet in recent months has left these decisions up in the air.
Speaking on a panel at the Media & Entertainment Leaders Summit (MELS) in London yesterday, Holland, who heads up the Survivor and MasterChef rights holder in the UK, said that the inability to provide a clear regulatory future for the broadcast sector would impact confidence of the sector.
“The most important thing that we need to do in order to protect and propel the industry is to give much greater clarity to the BBC and Channel 4 in terms of public service, in terms of that next step.”
Holland, who worked at Fremantle and was the BBC’s director of factual, arts & classical music – as well as channel controller of BBC Two – before joining the production powerhouse earlier this year, said that “seeing it from the production side” it was clear “how important [pay-TV giant] Sky is, how important a confident Channel 4 is and how important a confident BBC is.”
Holland said that “a confident public service core” made the British broadcasting sector “unique” and would be a vital element in the future strength of the UK production sector.
The UK remains an attractive co-production destination for global streamers, with numerous partnerships on shows including Chloe, which was produced by recent Banijay acquisition Mam Tor Productions. It was funded by the BBC, which took UK rights, and Amazon Prime Video, which took rest of world.
“The reason why the streamers love us and the reason why there is such great content being made by them is because of that ecology,” said Holland.
However, the Banijay exec, as well as fellow pannelists Caroline Cooper, COO at Sky Studios, and Alex Jones, Red Planet Pictures co-MD Alex James, all pointed to the ongoing skills shortages behind the camera as an increasing problem for producers.
The result of surging demand and low supply, James said, was higher costs for shows, although Cooper and Holland added that the situation would offer opportunities for those earlier on in their careers to rise the ladded quicker than predecessors.