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Pact hits out at BBC plans

UK indie association Pact has blasted BBC director of television Danny Cohen’s suggestion that superindies should not receive the same terms of trade as smaller producers.

Cohen told MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CMSC) yesterday that the UK pubcaster is working on plans to introduce different terms of trade for producers depending on their size.

His evidence was part of wider plans – announced by BBC director Tony Hall last week – to tear up the UK pubcaster’s existing production quotas and allow its in-house department to pitch shows to rival broadcasters.

But Pact CEO John McVay, who is in support of Lord Hall’s proposals, said Cohen has “misunderstood” the terms of the Communications Act 2003, which he said “enabled unparalleled business growth in British television.”

“The independent TV production sector will be disappointed to hear the evidence provided to the CMSC by Danny Cohen,” McVay said. “He appears to have misunderstood how an elegant piece of legislation enacted by parliament in 2003 works in practice.

“Pact and the public service broadcasters negotiate terms of trade on a regular basis according to codes of practice approved by Ofcom. But broadcasters only need apply the terms of trade in dealings with qualifying independent producers.

“It is at the discretion of each public service broadcaster whether or not to offer terms of trade in their dealings with companies that are non-qualifying.”

The legislation helped to pave the way for terms of trade between producers and public service broadcasters. The economic surge that followed has seen the UK’s independent production sector grow its annual revenue from £1.6bn (US$2.74bn) in 2004 to almost £3bn reported in the 2014 Pact financial census, published this week.

Cohen highlighted the potential merger of Shine Group, Endemol and Core Media as one of the catalysts for the BBC’s quota plans.

He said the BBC wanted to hold conversations with small and medium-sized indies, adding that the current culture of consolidation in the TV industry was unfair.

However, McVay added: “We mustn’t forget that this legislation has helped enable a cottage industry to transform into a multibillion-pound global business sector that is the envy of the world.”


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