EXCLUSIVE: The British government is edging closer to making a decision that could open the floodgates to hundreds of film and TV shoots returning to production following the coronavirus shutdown.
Deadline hears that Treasury ministers are expected to make a call shortly on whether to establish an emergency insurance fund, which will effectively underwrite the cost of productions closing in the event of a second lockdown.
It follows constructive talks with a BFI-assembled task force working group, chaired by PACT chief executive John McVay, which has been lobbying for the emergency safety net, potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
The Treasury has provided feedback on the proposals and McVay is hopeful a decision will be made “soon.” He said: “The government has been really engaged and active in finding a solution, but ultimately it’s a political decision.”
A Treasury spokesman echoed McVay’s constructive tone. “We are aware of the specific problems film and TV productions are having securing the necessary insurance and are discussing with the industry ways in which they could get back on set as soon as possible,” he told Deadline.
McVay said “we have hundreds of productions ready to go again” in the UK, but producers and broadcasters are holding back because of the insurance gap. Some are taking the plunge, but are ultimately crossing their fingers and hoping there isn’t another shutdown. McVay would not be drawn on whether ministers are set to endorse his proposals.
A source familiar with the talks said a decision is taking longer than they would like, but they pointed out that the government has been decisive on the economy during the coronavirus crisis, introducing the widely-praised furlough scheme early during the lockdown.
The insurance fund is seen as a short-term solution before more sustainable pandemic insurance plans are put in place. Other countries have introduced similar support for the film and TV industry, including Austria and France.
McVay has argued that the fund might never be used, and even it does, it is likely to work out cheaper than the government continuing to pay producer wages under the furlough scheme. Production restarts will also help get the economy moving again, according to the PACT boss.
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