An influential group of British Parliamentarians has called on the government to set up an emergency film and TV production insurance fund to help get cameras rolling again across the UK.
In a report on the impact of coronavirus on the UK’s cultural sectors, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said that without an insurance solution, efforts to get shoots back underway are “doomed to failure.”
The MPs said: “Government must address the urgent need for the UK’s cultural industries to be covered by adequate insurance… Alongside working with the insurance industry to introduce a long-term pandemic reinsurance scheme, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should establish an emergency fund to guarantee coverage for TV and film productions, stage productions, concerts and tours interrupted or abandoned due to Covid-19.”
Deadline revealed earlier this month that there has been constructive talks between the industry and the Treasury over an insurance fund, which will effectively underwrite the cost of productions closing in the event of a second lockdown.
Pact chief executive John McVay has been leading lobbying for the safety net, potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds, and industry figures are upbeat about the prospect of getting support.
Only yesterday, Sky Studios CEO Gary Davey told journalists of the Broadcasting Press Guild that he is “hopeful” the government will arrive at a solution. He pointed to a similar insurance fund established in Austria, which he said allowed its local original Me And The Others to get shooting again in June.
“It makes sense, especially for a smaller indie — the idea of carrying shut down risks on their balance sheet is really difficult. It would be a very good thing for the government to do,” Davey said. He acknowledged, however, that it’s “enormously complicated” and said Chancellor Rishi Sunak is involved in the talks.
Davey’s constructive tone was echoed by ITV last week. “We’re getting there, I think we’re pretty close actually,” said Magnus Brooke, ITV’s director of policy and regulatory affairs. “We’ve been working very closely with Pact [and] with government to find a short-term solution.”
While some shows are heading back into production, such as Daisy Edgar-Jones starrer War Of The Worlds, McVay has said that “hundreds” of others are waiting for some sort of insurance plan.
A Treasury spokesman said earlier this month: “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.”
Beyond the insurance issue, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report was critical of the government’s sluggish response to assisting the UK’s cultural sector through Covid-19. MPs said it was “too slow” to announce a £1.57B ($2B) rescue package for arts venues, including independent cinemas.
“The failure of the government to act quickly has jeopardized the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them,” said committee chair Julian Knight. “We urge the government to act on our recommendations, to recognize the value these sectors provide and imagine how much bleaker the outcome for all without their survival.”