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Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


SUBMISSION 6

Memorandum submitted by Sgrîn Cymru Wales

1.  INTRODUCTION

  This paper is produced in response to the invitation issued in November 2002 to interested parties to submit written evidence to the Committee to assist their inquiry into all aspects of the British film industry and British film including the performance of the Film Council.

  Sgrîn Cymru Wales is the lead body in Wales for the development and promotion of film, television and new media. It was formed in April 1997 from the merger of the Wales Film Council, the Wales Film and Television Archive and Screen Wales. A company limited by guarantee, Sgrîn Cymru Wales receives revenue funding from the Welsh Development Agency, the Arts Council of Wales, Wales Trade International, the Film Council, the broadcasters in Wales (S4C, BBC Wales, ITV 1 Wales) and the independent production trade body, TAC. Sgrîn hosts the Media Antenna for Wales. Since 2002 Sgrîn has had delegated powers to distribute National Lottery funding to film projects in Wales.

2.  THE "INDUSTRY"

  Sgrîn Cymru Wales believes that there is a significant community of people in the United Kingdom concerned with the production, distribution and exhibition of film. There is also a significant community of people concerned with the production, distribution and broadcasting of television programmes and, increasingly, digital moving image programmes. In our experience, as a body concerned with all these communities within Wales, we can see sense in regarding them as essentially a single industry.

  Each sector is interrelated with the other and as technology continues to develop the distinctions between each become increasingly blurred. At the same time, the challenges facing them are the same: the need for appropriate, imaginative, engaging and entertaining content; clear, cost-effective, reliable, robust and accessible methods of distribution that encourage and support the ideas of equality of opportunity and minimise social exclusion; and exhibition or exploitation of the content in ways that maximise its audiences.

  We are unable to comment on the economic impact of these activities on a UK-wide basis, but research undertaken for Sgrîn during the early stages of a feasibility study for the establishment of a creative fund for Wales indicated the significance of the indigenous industry in Wales.

  Analysis of the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) of media businesses (including sound, motion picture and video production and TV and radio activities) in 1998 suggests that there were approximately 3,450 employees and 300 businesses in the media sectors in Wales.

  Skillset data relating to the year 2000 shows that, including freelancers and contracts of less than a year, there were 3,796 employees in the audio-visual sector in Wales.

  Comparisons with other regions show that employment in the audio-visual sector in Wales is second only to London when employment is expressed as a percentage of all employees in the region.[1]

3.  BALANCING FILM AND TELEVISION

  Our experience in Wales suggests there are many benefits to be derived from a strong and direct relationship between television broadcasters and other agencies and players in this arena. Without the sustained and substantial support from Wales' broadcasters over many years we would not have achieved the level of economic activity in this area that is reported above.

  Examples of this beneficial relationship between the sectors is evidenced by the fact that the two Welsh productions (Hedd Wyn and Solomon a Gaenor) which have received nominations for Academy Awards in the category of Best Film in a Foreign Language were commissioned and largely funded by S4C. The benefits are not, however, merely financial. All the broadcasters in Wales have and continue to contribute strategically to the development of the industry through their own schemes and activities and by taking an active part in the governance of Sgrîn Cymru Wales itself.

  A key area where the synergies of the sectors have been particularly well harnessed is that of training. Cyfle, the national training provider in Wales is largely funded by an S4C levy on Welsh language television productions. Whilst the graduates of many of Cyfle's training programmes are destined for work in the broadcast sector they are equipped with transferable skills and an increasing number are finding work on cinematic projects in production in Wales.

4.  CREATIVE FUND FOR WALES

  Government interventions in the area of film production are often contentious. Indeed, the decision of the Committee to inquire into the film industry at this point is in part driven by a desire to ensure that any interventions made by the Government or its agencies are effective and efficient. The proposed Creative Fund for Wales, with substantial investment from the Welsh Assembly Government, provides an example of the type of support which is designed to maximise return on investment. The fund's business plan demonstrates that as well as the tangible returns—including the employment and subsequent local economic benefits—there are also significant cultural and other intangible benefits to be accrued.

  Again, we believe that the unified approach to the various sectors to be supported by the proposed fund provides the best model for maximising the benefits. Technological convergence and audience behaviour both support our view that treating the different industry sectors separately is no longer appropriate.

5.  THE FILM COUNCIL

  The nature of the film and moving image industries is such that the timescales required to bring a project to conclusion are protracted and not unusual to be in excess of five years. We therefore believe that it is premature to undertake a full evaluation of the work and strategy of the Film Council. Having said that, there are areas of the organisation's operation which our experience suggests could be improved.

  Sgrîn Cymru Wales works with the other National Bodies, Scottish Screen, Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission and the Film Council to further the development of the United Kingdom's film and moving image industries. As such we support the aims and objectives of the Council and the publication in 2002 of Working together: making a difference outlines how all four organisations pursue their shared and individual goals.

  It is important to note that whilst at the current time the aims of both Sgrîn Cymru Wales and the Film Council are similar, we are concerned that there is no direct, formal representation of Wales on the Council itself. Our view is that such an appointment would further strengthen a good and collaborative relationship.

  The British Film Institute remains a key educational and cultural resource for the United Kingdom. However, it has yet to fully reflect the true nature of devolution. The bfi must reflect the needs and aspirations of Wales more closely and should discover appropriate mechanisms to deliver in Wales. This could be achieved in the area of archiving and access by working in partnership with the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales a joint partnership between the National Library of Wales and Sgrin Cymru Wales.

6.  CONCLUSION

  Our experience in Wales is that in a constantly evolving situation there are considerable advantages to be gained by integrating the activities of all media sectors. This is something, which has enabled Sgrin Cymru Wales, in a relatively short space of time, to undertake its role successfully.

17 January 2003




1   Broomfield & Alexander, October 2002, "Creative Fund for Wales Business Plan". Back


 
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