Following a keynote speech from culture secretary John Whittingdale at the RTS Cambridge Convention, in which he announced that broadcast regulator Ofcom would be conducting a review of the UK’s terms of trade, UK independent producers’ association Pact has called the news “utterly astonishing.”
During his keynote speech, Whittingdale pointed towards Ofcom’s recent public service broadcasting review, with particular mention of “concerns that have been expressed about the changing landscape as a result of consolidation and overseas acquisitions.”
As a result, he continued, “the time seems right to check whether the regulations remain the most effective means of supporting small independent producers in their negotiations with broadcasters, in light of significant – and probably continuing – changes in the relative size and strength of the different parties.
“That is why I have asked them to undertake a health-check of the terms of trade regulations.”
Whittingdale added that he is “open-minded about whether any change is needed.”
British independent producers association Pact was quick to respond with a statement and press interviews, in which CEO John McVay said he was “shocked and disappointed” by the revelation.
Via its statement, the association said: “Pact is disappointed that yet again the publicly owned broadcasters appear to have lobbied for another review of the terms of trade outside of the legitimate regular reviews required under legislation.
“Pact will use every means possible to defend the interests of the British indie sector made up of small private businesses who are facing yet another period of instability which can only damage investment and growth,” the statement continued. “If the next review finds that there is no case to answer, then it would be incumbent on Channel 4, the BBC and Government to guarantee a period of time where there would be no further threats, in order to give businesses and investors’ confidence.”
Laura Mansfield, chair of the association and MD of UK indie Outline Productions, stated: “Ofcom’s very recent PSB Review found that ‘overall, the system appears to be functioning effectively’ so it is utterly astonishing that the Culture Secretary should call for them to yet again review the terms of trade.
“Given that the terms of trade are there to help and support qualifying indies and entrepreneurs who need it – such as my indie Outline – and do not apply to the non-qualifying indies, I just don’t understand why a government which champions small businesses would want to create such instability,” she added.