Written evidence submitted by Directors UK
Directors UK response to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS Sectors
- Directors UK is the professional association of UK screen directors. It is a membership organisation representing the creative, economic and contractual interests of over 7,000 members — the majority of working TV and film directors in the UK.
- Directors UK collects and distributes royalty payments and provides a range of services to members including campaigning, commercial negotiations, legal advice, events, training and career development. Directors UK works closely with fellow organisations around the world to represent directors’ rights and concerns, promotes excellence in the craft of direction and champions change to the current landscape to create an equal opportunity industry for all.
- The impact of COVID-19 on the sector has been significant. TV and film production effectively shut down in the weeks prior to the official lockdown. The knock on impacts on the workforce, made up of a high percentage of freelance and self-employed workers, was immediate and acute.
- Research conducted by Directors UK over the weekend of 20-22 March (the weekend formal lockdown began) found that 96% of respondents said their work had already been restricted by COVID-19. Only 9.5% of respondents were continuing to get paid.
- Many freelance/self-employed workers in our sector fall outside the eligibility criteria for either of the current support schemes (CJRS and SEISS) leaving them extremely vulnerable and unsupported.
- Representatives from across the industry have put forward recommendations to the Government which would enable thousands more creative workers in real need to financially survive this period of crisis, and help the industry to retain their talent and skills, including:
- Allowing certified dividends from PSCs to be included in income calculations being made for determining furloughing payments alongside the PAYE elements of income through the CJRS.
- Removing or raising the £50,000 cap on eligibility for the SEISS to create parity with the benefits available to PAYE workers who are not impacted by an equivalent earnings ceiling.
- Directors UK is involved in the recovery work being undertaken to set out guidelines and protocols to ensure the industry can return to work safely. Health and safety policy on productions must be clear, consistent and accessible to all. The chain of responsibility for each production must be supported by clear reporting lines, with whistle-blowing protections; and an employers’ duty of care should be extended to freelancers.
- The increased impact on costs for getting productions up and running again, and a large decline in advertising revenues for commercial broadcasters is going to have a knock on impact on the funds available to invest in future projects. The Government could consider fiscal support e.g. additional tax relief, to aid recovery for film and television production.
- Insurance is also a key concern for the production sector post-COVID-19 and may be an area the Government will need to step forward in support.
- The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated many of the inherent flaws in the current taxation and employment system that does not recognise the working model of the self-employed freelancer. There is a need for a wholesale review of how the self-employed workforce are monitored, engaged and supported in the future given this group of workers are growing faster than any others according to DCMS figures.
- Professional organisations, guilds and unions, representing the breadth of workers in the creative economy, are willing to help Government in supporting recovery and creating a stronger industry. However, we are not currently represented on the Creative Industries Council (CIC). Directors UK, along with other organisations, has written to DCMS about establishing a “UK Creators Council” to inform and assist policy-making, enabling Government to hear the creators’ voices directly.
- Pivotal to the sector’s recovery and the renumeration model that underpins film and television production, is the maintenance of a strong copyright and IP regime. It is also important that the high standards of copyright enforcement and protection in the UK are reflected and protected in future trade deals.
- The current crisis has also highlighted the importance of UK Public Service Broadcasting to British audiences for both news and entertainment during the pandemic. The review of PSB and the rise of the global SVoD must take into consideration the additional impacts of COVID-19 on the sector, including funding models, inward investment, regulation, retaining and developing ideas and talent.
What has been the immediate impact of COVID-19 on the sector?
- Prior to the COVID-19 crisis the Creative Industries were growing at five times the rate of the UK economy as a whole, employing 2 million people (a third being self-employed) and forging the sector’s global reputation for innovation and creativity. Within this, UK film and television production make vital contributions to the UK economy, society and culture and have helped to build the significant ‘soft power’ the UK has sought to use on the global stage. This includes everything from the influential wildlife documentaries of Sir David Attenborough to the phenomenon of Game of Thrones. In financial terms the BFI report that overall the UK screen industries create a total of £7.91billion GVA for the UK economy annually. Drilling down, further detail from Creative Industries Council specifies UK television alone creates £3billion of revenue and £1.4billion in exports.
- The nature of the UK production industry means it is a collaborative activity with crews working on locations that require travelling around the country and overseas, often working in studios or on sets, and interacting closely with one another and members of the public. This nature of working is directly contradictory to government advice around COVID-19: which is to limit social interactions, work from home and self-isolate in order to safeguard public health.
- As more scientific understanding began to emerge about the virus and its spread, the response from the production sector was swift. Television and film began implementing shutdowns in the weeks prior to the official Government lockdown measures. A prevalence of project-based work, involving high levels of group interactions, travel and moving between different work bases meant production environments were not conducive to preventing the spread of the virus.
- As a result, the impact COVID-19 has had on the sector is at a relatively advanced stage, akin to other sections of the economy that were hit early on such as hospitality, retail and leisure; and serious structural issues have now become very apparent. News of large-scale halting of projects and shutting down by studios and well-established productions were confirmation that the audio-visual sector was being impacted at the same time as hospitality and retail were beginning to feel the effects. On the consumer side, audiences noted that popular dramas such as Eastenders reduced the number of episodes broadcast each week in order to eke out the pre-recorded shows available during lockdown. It is plausible that such shows could go off air in the next couple of months as episodes run out, unless production resumes in June as hoped.
- This impact on the film and TV production sector and the knock on to its workforce was immediate and acute. Film and television production is reliant upon a high percentage of freelance and self-employed workers compared to the UK average. Almost all our members are self-employed freelancers. Research conducted by Directors UK over the weekend of 20-22 March (the weekend formal lockdown began) found that:
- 96% of respondents said their work had already been restricted by COVID-19.
- Only 9.5% of respondents were continuing to get paid, and 3.5% said they were being paid at a reduced rate.
- Only 14% of respondents were still working.
- 75% of respondents felt they only had enough means to support themselves for a maximum of 2-3 months (from date of survey on 20-22nd March), with 9% of those in immediate financial difficulty.
- 81% of respondents reported that they had already lost income.
- The top 3 things that respondents were most concerned about were:
- loss of work
- securing future work
- managing their household bills.
- The immediate impact of COVID-19 on society, the economy and the creative sector provides limited insight to the longer-term impact of the pandemic. Many of our directors and their crews are expecting to face long periods of time without work as the ramifications of the industry shutdown are felt. Issues that emerged in the first few weeks/months of the pandemic include:
- Productions being cancelled or indefinitely delayed.
- Budget cuts.
- Job losses.
- Production funding/risk models radically undermined;
- the ability to spread production risk undermined,
- insurance has fallen away or is offering preclusive premiums.
- Freelancers have had their contracts ended, have no new work opportunities, and are unable to access the full range of Government support packages open to employees.
- Development opportunities are limited, green-lighting will be delayed and significantly contract in the immediate term.
- Viewing across traditional broadcasters and SVoDs/ AVoDs is showing record spikes.
- Commercial broadcasters are experiencing a huge drop in income from advertising revenue.
- An increased use of existing content, back catalogues and the repurposing of archived materials.
- A few major film studios have gone straight to digital platform release with cinemas being currently closed. The repercussions of this are yet to be determined as it is too early to point to an established trend that could impact the exhibition sector.
- The negative consequences that can already be seen are likely to deepen and become more complex in terms of solutions as the economy and day-to-day life fight to recover under the preventative restrictions the coronavirus requires.
How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?
- With the vast majority of film and television directors being self-employed freelancers, and almost half operating as directors of Public Services Companies/Limited companies, we have identified significant gaps that remain in the support provisions for this group of the workforce, which disproportionately impact both TV and film directors and the sector within which they operate.
- ONS statistics for the UK Film and TV sector indicate that in 2019 a total of just over 166,000 people were employed across the production, distribution, exhibition and broadcasting sectors. Self-employed workers in the film and TV sectors account for 32% of this workforce, nearly double that of the UK working population as a whole (15%). In 2019 this represented a total of c.54,000 people.
- Directors UK wrote to the Chancellor (19th March) highlighting concern over the impact of productions shutting down and calling for urgent support for self-employed workers in the creative sector. We wrote again (23rd March), following the announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for employees, calling for a similar income guarantee for freelancers and the self-employed, highlighting our survey findings and the precarious situation of our members and the creative sector.
- We therefore welcomed the Government’s follow-up announcement of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). However, it has since become apparent that many self-employed workers in our sector would fall outside the eligibility criteria for the SEISS, leaving them extremely vulnerable and unsupported. Directors UK has joined many others across the sector in raising these concerns with the Government. We quickly identified groups of freelancers/self-employed workers who are unable to access either of the current support schemes (CJRS and SEISS) including:
- Those who work as “One-man band” Public Service Companies/Limited Companies, who receive most of their income in the form of dividends from their own company.
- Self-employed workers who earn over the £50,000 threshold set by the Chancellor.
- Recently self-employed people who may not have filed a 2018-19 tax return.
- People who are part-employed and part self-employed, who earn over 50% of their earnings through PAYE and are not eligible for either the CJRS or SEISS.
- PAYE freelancers who are struggling to be furloughed as they work on a series of short-term contracts for a variety of employers and may have been in between or at the end of a contract before the cut-off date.
- In the TV and film industry it is common for freelancers to operate via their own Personal Service Company/Limited company and to receive their remuneration mostly in the form of dividends from the profits of their company, rather than salary. Often freelancers are required to operate via a PSC by their hiring company as a way of protecting the employer from any standard obligations of employment (e.g. sick pay, holiday, national insurance, maternity etc). The law currently does not regard dividends as the earnings or profits from trade, so they cannot be used to determine the level of support that freelancers can access under the current SEISS. This means that many self-employed workers can only access financial support for a fraction of their real income and will struggle to pay their basic living expenses as a result.
- Directors UK conducted a survey (1-2 April) among our working membership to determine how many of our freelancers are affected. As you will note from the findings below, the payment of income as dividends affects a large proportion of our members.
- 95% of respondents fall into two working categories: those who operate as a LTD/PSC (47%), and those who operate as individual freelancers/sole traders (48%).
- 85% of members operating as a Ltd/PSC pay themselves in dividends.
- 92% of those who pay themselves in dividends can separate them out from any other dividends they receive.
- We wrote again to the Chancellor (6th April) outlining our findings and proposing a way of using dividend certificates relating to an individual’s PSC to allow these to be included in calculations of income. All our correspondence with the Chancellor over these matters has been copied to the relevant ministers and members of parliament in the Treasury, DCMS, DWP, and BEIS.
- In addition, many freelance and self-employed workers in the creative industries are negatively impacted by the £50,000 cut off for claiming self-employment relief, especially workers in London and the South East with large fixed costs. Directors UK’s research found that nearly half of respondents (43%) are not eligible for support as they earn just a few thousand more than the cap allows and are therefore unable to access any support. The Government has justified the cap by stating that those who earn over the £50,000 threshold earn an average of £200,000.
- Our member research clearly shows this not to be the case. The spread of profit/earnings for all those working as Ltd/PSCs and sole traders combined, ranges predominantly from £20,000-£70,000. With the largest number (21%) falling into the £40-50,000 grouping, closely followed by £50-60k (17%). We understand the wish to exclude high earners, but the cap on claiming support for PAYE staff is set at £2,500 per month. If the Government would remove or raise the £50,000 annual profit cap and create parity of support with employed workers, thousands more freelancers who are not earning much more, and are facing financial hardships with the prospects of no work, would be able to access financial support at this worrying time.
- We believe there is scope to improve the packages on offer and as the Government has made some adjustments to the current schemes on offer we hope they would be responsive to the following recommendations which would enable many more creative workers in real need to financially survive this period of crisis and help the industry to retain their talent and skills:
- Limited Companies/Personal Service Companies: Allow certified dividends from PSCs to be included in income calculations being made for determining furloughing payments alongside the PAYE elements of income through the CJRS.
- Income cap: Remove or raise the £50,000 cap on eligibility for the SEISS to create parity with the benefits available to PAYE workers who are not impacted by an equivalent earnings ceiling.
- Parents & Carers: Adapt the SEISS to incorporate a declaration from those with gaps in their income and self-assessments information due to maternity/parental/caring responsibilities.
- Those who fall below the 50% of self-employed income threshold to qualify for SEISS: Enable HMRC to assess all income, PAYE and turnover through self-employment to give a more accurate picture of earnings.
- We appreciate that there is a significant technical challenge for the Treasury and HMRC in relation to Self-Employed workers, and understand the importance of minimising the potential for fraud. However, we still believe there is more that can be done to support the Self-Employed who are not all earning the high average salaries, as is being suggested.
- Working as a freelance TV and film director has always been financially precarious. They work outside traditional employment structures and do not benefit from the safeguards and employment rights and benefits that regular employees have. As self-employed workers they also experience patterns of employment that are insecure, unpredictable and their pay is often irregular. The loss of work due to COVID-19 has exacerbated this and many are concerned whether they will be able to continue working in the industry after the crisis.
- We are particularly concerned around the welfare of freelance directors and that
health and safety concerns around a return to production effectively and adequately mange significant risks to people’s health and lives. It is paramount that the health and safety policy and procedure on every single production is clear, consistent and accessible to all. Central to protecting every individual working on a production will be ensuring that a clearly defined chain of responsibility for health and safety issues is established throughout the production process, from the commissioning body through to day to day management of the production.
- The chain of responsibility for each production must be supported by clear reporting lines, with whistle-blowing protections and an open commitment that any workers who refuse to work in conditions they deem to be unsafe will not be penalised or discriminated against. Crucially, COVID-19 poses a risk to everyone and so it cannot be allowed to stand that the duty of care rightly in place for employees is not extended to freelancers, who make up nearly half of the workforce underpinning production. DCMS and other government departments can play a vital role that facilitates and oversees that the chain of responsibility for the safety of the industry’s workers is set in place and actively monitored.
- Directors UK, along with other organisations representing workers are extremely concerned about how the Access & Inclusion agenda will be maintained with a return to production in highly pressurised circumstances. This industry as a whole must ensure that those falling under protected characteristics and vulnerable groups already at a disadvantage (BAME, Women, less able, Parents/Carers, LGBTQ) and ‘vulnerable’ (e.g. over 70, underlying health conditions, pregnant) are adequately recognised and supported to return to work. Key to rebuilding a more diverse and equitable industry post-COVID-19 will be ensuring that employment opportunities are genuinely open, accessible and inclusive.
- At times of crisis or recession, societal problems around bias and discrimination become more acute. Directors UK urges industry guidance and practice around hiring and recruitment to reflect the principles as set out in the Equality Act 2010 and that reasonable adjustments for each worker are made where necessary. DCMS will need to lead on this and work with industry to ensure this happens. In particular it will need to work with Ofcom in the monitoring and reporting of the industry’s workforce with the assistance of the BFI and CDN (Diamond) data gathering systems.
- Sources of financial support available to directors beyond the government package, with its current shortfalls, is relatively piecemeal and varies greatly across the nations and regions. Emergency support funds have been made available to creative industry workers through the Film and TV Charity to support creative workers in urgent financial need during this crisis. A similar fund is available to directors via the Directors Charitable Foundation (DCF) which Directors UK has contributed to. We also welcome the BFI support programme and funds, although there are ways these could be made more accessible to the UK freelance creative community including writers and directors. Creative Scotland has also released funds that creative workers in Scotland can apply for, and there are numerous other support offerings in the nations and regions.
- All of these funds are limited in size and number and must be applied for and assessed case by case. Currently, the level of coverage and sustained assistance needed by freelance directors to make it through the crisis and be an active part of the recovery is not in place.
What will the likely long-term impacts of COVID-19 be on the sector, and what support is needed to deal with those?
- The depth and duration of the now inevitable recession is yet to become clear but understanding how we might best protect the quality and quantity of production work will be key in a successful recovery. Industry supply and demand in the production sector has been distorted so drastically that we will not be able to rely on this experience alone to see us through challenging times in the future. The COVID-19 crisis is up-ending day to day business and will continue to present our sector, like every other, with its own set of distinctive ‘unknowns’ to manage our way through.
- Fundamental to mitigating the negative long-term impacts and putting the industry in the best possible position for recovery, is being realistic about the potential for high levels of unemployment and underemployment the sector will experience. This is particularly pertinent to the TV and film production industry where such a high proportion of workers are self-employed and job precarity is rife.
- Unlike past recessions, in which the supply-demand dynamic becomes skewed over time, the COVID-19 crisis has halted every section of the industry’s value chain all at once, overnight. The supply chain has been shut off by a full scaling back of both production and the workforce, at a time when demand was going through the roof, leading to wildly uncertain impacts for the sector. The sector will need a bespoke package of measures that enable access to the financing, credit and insurance needed to get projects back off the ground, into production and onto screens. All of which will need to be set against a backdrop of new health and safety guidelines and restrictions.
- This is happening at a time when the demand for content has shot up during lockdown, and is likely to remain high throughout the crisis, as people turn to their screens for entertainment at home. However the impact of production shutting down, the likely increased impact on costs for getting productions up and running again, and a large decline in advertising revenues for commercial broadcasters is going to have a knock on impact on the funds available to invest in future projects. The Government could consider fiscal support for film and television production such as the current Film and High End Tax Relief schemes, and the schemes to support animation, children’s TV and video games. This could be expanded beyond the current mediums and genres to support a broader range of content going into development and production.
- A range of high-level, coordinated policy interventions will be needed in an unprecedently short timeframe. To be truly effective and coherent this will need to take the form of a Sector Recovery Plan for each creative sector that is aligned to the existing Industrial Strategy, which in itself will need to be revised and refocused in light of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Together this could present a comprehensive approach to leading the Creative Industries back in the direction of the growth and productivity it has been previously delivering on.
- The production sector is currently at a crucial stage in this process, as sections within film and television are already undertaking rapid reviews of the impact so far and are exploring the practical issues of how to get productions up and running safely, developing industry guidance, protocols and best practice. This requires a careful balancing of health and safety alongside the practical ramifications for production, and this will inevitably shape the genres and shows that can be made during and post-crisis. The industry bodies (BFI, BSC) and DCMS play a vital role in ensuring that these activities do not take place in piecemeal fashion, but are drawn together into a coherent response, in consultation with all relevant parts of the workforce, including representatives of the freelance production talent and crews.
- Directors UK is playing its part contributing to these discussions, as the role of the director on a production is key to getting a written idea or script onto the screen in keeping with any health and safety guidelines and production or budgetary constraints. However, we have become aware, through our own collaborations with other groups representing workers, that the level of engagement and consultation has been extremely variable. Only through sustained and meaningful cooperation between the various parts of the industry and its workforce, can a safe and productive return to work be achieved, Currently too much of this is being determined by the nature of respective working groups and ‘task-forces’ rather than a set of shared guiding principles for industry wide work. DCMS and arms-length bodies are ideally placed to not only co-ordinate the practice, planning at a strategic level, but also set underlying principles that all such work ensures that the individual workers being asked to return to production are properly involved in the development process so their concerns are heard and addressed accordingly. In addition, the nature of production has traditionally meant our sector involves high levels of travel, physical interactions, and gatherings, which without considerable adjustment could leave it vulnerable to a stalled or faltering recovery. Significant periods of travel disruptions along with full or partial sector lockdowns will mean production will need to adapt and innovate and DCMS is well-placed to lead/support the creative industries on this drive.
- Insurance is also a key concern for the production sector post-COVID-19 and may be an area the Government will need to step forward in support. If premiums are unavailable or too restrictive it is likely that only the larger studios or streamers will be able to afford to take the risk on going into production, which may further exacerbate the imbalance in the UK sector between the domestic local industry and the larger international players.
- Finally, as the Collective Management Organisation for screen directors, Directors UK collects and distributes royalties for repeat and secondary use of their work. This income generated from copyright is a vital source of income for freelance directors, who often experience gaps in employment between projects, or whilst they develop new creative ideas. Royalty payments help provide many directors with the means to continue investing their time and energy in creating the next project for everyone to enjoy. Last year we distributed over £17million in payments to screen directors. The shutting down of production and the loss of work and income for freelancers has highlighted the importance of these royalty and residual payments to freelance creators on unpredictable incomes. With production shut down for a period of time we are mindful of the knock on impact this is likely to have on future residual and royalty payments, which will in turn have a delayed impact on the income of screen directors over the next few years. It also underlines the need to ensure that the UK’s copyright framework is protected and maintained throughout the pandemic and is fit for the future.
What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with COVID-19?
- The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated many of the inherent flaws in the current taxation and employment system that does not recognise or reflect the working model of the self-employed freelancer. The challenges faced by the Treasury and HMRC in their efforts to devise and deliver support measures for self-employed sections of the workforce have very effectively highlighted the urgent need for harmonisation between tax and employment status to reflect the realities of the modern world of work. In the film and television sector, being self-employed is often not a voluntary choice but a necessity in order to secure work and sustain a career.
- The inherent difficulties in readily identifying and adequately supporting the self-employed workforce in the creative industries has revealed gaps in understanding in both how they are engaged and the specific needs that come out of this. The crisis has reinforced the need for a wholesale review of how the self-employed, freelancer workforce are monitored, engaged and supported in the future given this group of workers are growing faster than any others according to DCMS figures. It is imperative that the Government and the industry understand how the creative workforce is being engaged in work and how it can be more effectively tracked and supported in the future, particularly in light of the high chance of future pandemics. There is also a need for high-level structural support for the industry, with specific measures being designed with, and by the industry and DCMS is a vital conduit and advocate for what is needed from the government by our industry to move into recovery.
- The crisis has revealed how vulnerable the sector’s freelancer workforce is and the DCMS and arms-length bodies now need to play an increasingly active role in championing the sector’s needs and interests, working with organisations representing the workforce. An example of this is Directors UK’s work with the Creative Industries Federation and HMT to examine more closely the gaps in financial support for self-employed, freelancer workers left behind by the current policy interventions and make practically focused proposals around how this could be addressed.
- We would advocate for the continued involvement of professional organisations, guilds and unions that effectively engage with and represent the workforce, as being a key crisis learning outcome that will support a stronger recovery. Within every crisis are the seeds of opportunity and this presents the Creative Industries with a moment to redesign the industry’s culture and working practices to support greater productivity and efficiency. DCMS and arm’s length bodies still have some way to go on ensuring that perspectives from the workforce are adequately represented in devising and delivering support measures and recovery interventions. Along with other representatives in the creative economy, Directors UK is willing to offer our support to the DCMS and Treasury, and to make available our contact channels with our many thousands of members in these difficult times and going forwards.
- We have recently contacted the Department, along with fellow organisations representing individual creators - ALCS, BECS, DACS, Equity, the Musicians Union, Royal Society for Literature, Society of Authors and the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) - about an initiative put forward over the past 18 months, which we believe is now more important than ever: the establishment with DCMS of a “UK Creators Council” to inform and assist policy-making, enabling Government to hearing the creators voices directly.
- As membership organisations covering the breadth of workers in the creative economy, we are not represented on the Creative Industries Council (CIC), yet are able to offer our expertise and resources to assist DCMS and the Government in supporting the artists, writers, directors, musicians, performers and other creators who are affected by the current crisis and the further challenges that lie ahead for the UK’s creative economy. Indeed, kickstarting the creative economy is in large parts dependent on these creators, whose works and content forms the basis on which the creative industry is built. We hope therefore that the DCMS will be receptive to this suggestion.
How might the sector evolve after COVID-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?
- The creative industries are defined by the UK government as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property”.
- Today a growing proportion of creative content is consumed online. It is essential to our creative economy that Copyright protection remains fit for purpose for the digital age. As viewing habits and consumption trends change, strengthening and enforcing the IP framework effectively for the digital world will protect these important industries and revenue streams, and incentivise our creators and our industry to continue to achieve innovation and success, whilst giving audiences access to a wide array of content which is respected internationally.
- Pivotal to the sector’s recovery and the renumeration model that underpins film and television production, is the maintenance of a strong copyright and IP regime. We continue to advocate that trade negotiations with the EU and others present a timely opportunity to review UK policy and enshrine in UK law principles that are fundamental to the continued success of our sector and sustaining the careers of freelance creatives.
- It is also important that the high standards of copyright enforcement and protection in the UK are reflected and protected in future trade deals so that the UK creative industries can continue to be a success story. Directors UK continues to lobby for the core principles of strong copyright protections in preparation for Brexit and new trading conditions, in order to maximise the value of IP for creators and the UK economy. We look forward to DCMS’ continued support beyond the crisis in upholding UK copyright law and ensuring it is fit for purpose in the digital age.
- The current crisis has also highlighted the importance of UK Public Service Broadcasting to British audiences for both news and entertainment during the pandemic. Notably, during the coronavirus pandemic the BBC has demonstrated what it does best in terms of delivering a universally accessible public service to the UK population at a time of crisis. Something that is neither possible, or frankly appropriate, for non-domestic subscription services such as a Netflix, Amazon or Disney to fulfil. The Government, and the UK as a whole, would be wise to take a cautious and measured approach to any changes which will have an impact on the BBC’s core public service, whose scope and scale is being used to full effect in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a range of services to support the UK population through news, entertainment and educational resources, on TV, Radio and online and which are playing a vital role in keeping the country and its communities informed, safe and connected.
- In addition, the commercial PSB channels are now experiencing the impact of a significant fall in advertising revenue which will inevitably have a knock-on impact on their budgets for future programme making and service provision. ITV have reported a 42% drop in advertising revenue. Last month it was reported that Channel 4 have a 40% drop and are now seeking £75million of credit to shore up operations. PSBs were already facing the challenge of how to adapt and survive with the rise of global digital SVoD platforms. We are likely to see further divergence between our highly regulated domestic broadcasters and Pay-TV providers, and the relatively unregulated global subscriptions services and media platforms, as the differing conditions in which they can operate becomes even more stark. If the costs and risks associated with getting back into production are too great for the smaller, domestic broadcasters and production companies, we are likely to see a greater risk in an asymmetrical return to work and potentially the over-dominance of global streaming services.
- DCMS has already begun to undertake a review of Public Service Broadcasting and the rise of the global SVoD, any such review now needs to take into consideration these impacts of COVID-19 on the sector. Funding models, inward investment, regulation, retaining and developing ideas and talent needs to be looked at in this new light. We would welcome DCMS being an advocate for redressing the regulatory imbalance between the domestic and global content providers, to ensure that the values of Public Service broadcasting are maintained and protected, that UK creators are being fairly remunerated for the use of their work, and that UK services and content creators are operating on a level playing field. Directors UK looks forward to contributing to this work.
14th May 2020
 Creative Industries Federation statistics 2020
 BFI analysis 2019