Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 43

Memorandum submitted by Mactv

  Mactv is a Independent Production Company based in the Western Isles of Scotland working mostly in the medium of Gaelic. The company produces programmes in the genre of current affairs, arts, documentary and studio personal interviews. These programmes are broadcast either on BBC Scotland or on Grampian and Scottish Television (SMG). The programmes are funded by the Gaelic Television Committee (CCG).

  Mactv is owned and run by four local principals and employs a small number of staff on a permanent basis as well as drawing from a large pool of freelance staff for each of its programmes. It is a dynamic and successful production company, highly regarded for its programmes and highly respected for the cultural and language value of its work. The presence of Gaelic culture, located in Gaelic-speaking communities in certain areas of the Highlands and throughout the Hebrides, is a positive element in British life, adding to its diversity and cultural richness.

GAELIC BROADCASTING

  From the perspective of this company, the need is crucial for a comprehensive restructuring and adequate funding of Gaelic broadcasting to meet the expectations of this small but important element of the British people.

  As directors of mactv we endorse the findings and recommendations of the Milne Taskforce (2000), and recommend that all attempts should be made to realise its proposals. Since the starting baseline is so low—due to the inadequate provision made by governments in the past—these proposals may, at first, seem over-ambitious and over-costly, but they are best interpreted and placed within the overall and normalised UK broadcasting structure and levels of funding. In this context, the aspiration of the Milne Taskforce seems well-modulated, and, if accepted, would place Gaelic broadcasting within a socially just and inclusive framework in a UK context.

  An adequate service of this kind would add considerably to the confidence and emotional and intellectual quality of life of a great many people throughout the UK who are interested to varying degrees in the culture and language of Scottish Gaeldom. And it would strengthen considerably the resonance and provenance of that culture and its language throughout the country as a whole.

  Mactv recommends that all attempts are made to realise the proposals of the Milne Taskforce.

INDEPENDENT QUOTA

  Currently broadcasters are under a legal stipulation, which has been restated in the Bill, to obtain 25 per cent of their programming from the independent sector. While some broadcasters strongly support this quota and go well beyond it, others, especially the BBC and ITV, appear resentful of the quota, use dubious means to classify some productions as independent and tend to treat it as an absolute maximum—a ceiling.

  The Independent sector brings creativity and diversity to programming. Independently made programmes continually beat in-house productions for audience share and industry awards.

  Mactv would prefer that broadcasters had to treat the quota as a floor rather than a ceiling.

TERMS OF TRADE

  Independent producers have a rather limited number of customers willing to purchase their ideas. Again some customers deal with independents reasonably fairly. However, the BBC and the fear is that a single ITV would be similar, tend to use their size to arrogantly dictate to the Independent even to the extent of ignoring previously negotiated terms of trade.

  Mactv would like the broadcasters to be required to negotiate fairly and reasonably, to agree terms of trade and to adhere to them.

RIGHTS

  Typically an independent producer develops a programme for a single customer who cashflows the production and having made the programme the Independent moves on to the next programme/customer. Their lack of assets (other than their people) generates difficulties in raising fiance to develop their companies and leaves them at the mercy of broadcasters. Again the BBC in particular (and possibly a single ITV would as well) tend to abuse their position and insist that BBC Worldwide takes all rights, ie they grab all the rights throughout the universe for EVER.

  A broadcaster who funds a programme is reasonably entitled to the rights to broadcast the programme in its own geographic area (including re-broadcasts). However, the Independent should be permitted to capitalise on its investment and to build up its assets by retaining (secondary) rights to distribute/sell its programme in other areas and possible even in the original area after a specified period of time.

  Mactv would like Independent Producers to be given a fair share of the rights of their labour.

REGIONAL PRODUCTION

  There are some 1,500 independent production companies in the UK. Approximately 80 per cent to 90 per cent of these exist within the M25. Why? Because most commissioning decisions are made within the M25. The industry tends to operate very much on a face to face basis, therefore, by necessity most producers are based in London where they can be close to their customers.

  Although most of the broadcasters have policies for encouraging production in the regions (NB this is not the same as programming with regional content) so long as the majority of commissioning decisions are made in London it will always be easier for the commissioners to deal face to face with a London company. This can only be changed either by forcing the decision making out of London—which is unlikely, or by forcing the decision makers to utilise talent beyond their immediate doorstep.

  Mactv would like to see a strong and enforceable regional production policy incorporated in the Bill.

June 2002


 
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