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.
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 lowdue to the inadequate provision
made by governments in the pastthese 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.
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 maximuma 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.
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.
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.
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
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 Londonwhich 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.