British Film Institute: Children's Film Funding — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 14th February 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat 2:59 pm, 14th February 2011

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ensure that a proportion of the funding provided by the UK Film Council to the British Film Institute will be ring-fenced for the production of films whose target audience is children.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, following extensive consultation with the film industry, from April 2011 the British Film Institute will manage all lottery awards for films, including funding for film production. Lottery policy includes a requirement to encourage funded projects to inspire children and young people. That policy will remain in place while the Government conduct a review of film policy with the BFI later this year. The use of ring-fencing can be considered within that.

Photo of Baroness Benjamin Baroness Benjamin Liberal Democrat

I thank my noble friend for that encouraging Answer. Does she agree that the decline not just in children's television drama but also in children's UK film production denies our talented writers, our actors and production teams a creative outlet? Would my noble friend encourage the BFI to adopt the Danish film institute's model, so that there is a solution to this crisis? The Danes commit 25 per cent of their annual film budget to children's film and animation productions, which attract co-production funds. I take this opportunity to congratulate "The King's Speech" on its wonderful UK production.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Benjamin on her topical Question today, following the tremendous success of British films at the BAFTA awards last night. One cannot fail to feel proud, having watched all those talented, fine actors. The noble Baroness has a point on the percentage of films for children, but Her Majesty's Government feel that children are catered for in film productions. There were 191 films produced for children and young people in 2010. That represents 30 per cent of the total number of films passed by the British Board of Film Classification, which is slightly more than the Danish model.

Photo of Lord Wills Lord Wills Labour

My Lords, I should remind the House of my declaration of interests at the Second Reading of the Public Bodies Bill. The Minister has already referred to the remarkable success of "The King's Speech", not just at the BAFTA awards last night, but at award ceremonies around the world. We look forward to the Oscars as well. Is the Minister aware that the "The King's Speech" was brought to cinema screens by the UK Film Council, which has now been abolished by this Government for reasons best known to them? How confident are the Government that the efforts that they are making to restructure support for the British film industry will result in the replication of the success of "The King's Speech" next year and in years to come?

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Yes, my Lords, "The King's Speech" did fantastically well. Actually it had lottery money as well as UK Film Council money. The BFI and UKFC are now working together on due diligence procedures and will publish a detailed transfer plan shortly. That plan will provide a clear timetable, setting out which functions are moving across and when.

Photo of Viscount Falkland Viscount Falkland Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I declare an interest: my wife is the director of an international film sales company. My noble friend Lady Benjamin has introduced an important and interesting component to our film scene, that of children's film. However, it seems to me that the answers of the Minister have been rather pointed towards what I would call British acceptance of children's films. Of course, children's films are hugely popular around the world and we are very good at making them. We saw our talent last night: it is there waiting to make films for children, which should be sold on a proper strategy. Is it not the case that you create an industry by creating a relationship of sales to foreign film distributors so that they are always watching you and will always buy your films? They are always pre-sold so you build up trust.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My noble friend Lord Falkland is absolutely right. In addition to the films especially made for children, government support to a number of film activities focused on children and young people helps especially abroad.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I declare an interest as a previous vice-chairman of the BFI under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Attenborough, who, as we all regret, cannot be in his place today.

As the Minister will know, in the past, children's film was financed from the Eady levy and the funding administered by the Children's Film and Television Foundation with great success. If the principle of ring-fencing is accepted-I get the feeling from the Minister that it is-would it not make sense for that organisation to carry out the same role in future?

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Evans, on his successful time as vice-chairman of the British Film Institute. Ring-fencing is definitely being considered by the Government at the moment.

Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Chair, EU Sub-Committee A - Economic and Financial Affairs, and International Trade

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, also mentioned the making of TV and radio programmes. Will the Minister remind the BBC and other channels of their public service obligation to provide good and interesting films for children, because they have been sadly in decline over recent years?

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, makes an important point, but within the framework of the BBC charter and agreement, the provision for TV drama created specifically for children is a matter for the BBC; there is no provision for the Government to intervene.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, does the Minister agree that as well as film and radio for children, which are hugely important, the making of cartoon films-I am here thinking especially of S4C-has been a major contribution and one that can be exported around the world? I hope that nothing will happen to prevent S4C continuing its excellent work.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Concerning that, the Government also support FILMCLUB, which is a free service helping state schools to set up film clubs for children and young people, to do exactly that.