24 March 2010
BFI and UK Film Council to merge
The much-discussed possible merger between the British Film Institute and the UK Film Council is to become a reality. As part of today's Budget announcements, the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) said that one element of its package of efficiency savings would be the merger of the two institutions, which was first flagged as something the DCMS wanted to see happen in August 2009, and was strongly hinted at in December's pre-Budget report.
The BFI is an independent body with charitable status and Royal Charter, and has been in existence since 1933. Its activities include the BFI National Archive; BFI Southbank and BFI Imax; BFI Education; Sight & Sound magazine; and the BFI London Film Festival.
The UK Film Council was established by the Government in 2000 as the strategic agency for developing the film industry and film culture in the UK. Its activities include backing British-made films (shorts and features); a network of regional screen agencies, the Digital Screen Network; Skillset, the UK skills and training industry body for the creative industries; First Light Movies, which gives children and young people the chance to get involved in filmmaking; and funding the BFI.
The news also comes after the BFI was promised £45m in funding by the Government to help realise its ambition for a National Film Centre on London's South Bank.
The exact nature of the merger has yet to be announced, but there has been much discussion in the intervening period about governance and function. The DCMS originally announced in August of last year that the move was "designed to protect the key existing functions of both the BFI and UKFC while reducing gaps and overlaps", adding that:
The overall remit of the BFI and UKFC will not be reduced. The proposal is for a streamlined organisation, which can spend more of its money on film and services and less on infrastructure, and in turn offer better support for Britain's film culture and promotion of its film industry. Its remit would span securing investment across the sector, steering the industry through the transition to digital, championing the cultural importance of the UK's film heritage and guaranteeing that the full diversity of film culture is available to all.
The UK film world will await what emerges with the greatest of interest now that we will have the one flagship instead of two, with the hope that it brings a new focus and prominence to film culture in the UK.