Committee of Public Accounts


Press Notice No. 47 of Session 2002-03, dated 4 December 2003


FORTY-SEVENTH REPORT: FILM COUNCIL: IMPROVING ACCESS TO, AND EDUCATION ABOUT, THE MOVING IMAGE THROUGH THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE (HC 685)

Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today the Film Council needs to take a much tighter grip over the public funding it provides to the British Film Institute, and that clear priorities were needed for the National Film and Television Archive to ensure that the nation's film heritage does not rot away.

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 47th Report of this Session, which examined the management of the public subsidy the Film Council provides to the British Film Institute to develop film culture, efforts to reach a bigger and more diverse audience, and the need to take better care of the National Film and Television Archive.

The Committee found that the Film Council has yet to establish itself as the strategic leader for developing access to, and education about, the moving image. The Council has left the bfi to pursue its own agenda, despite insufficient evaluation of the impact of its subsidised activities, incomplete information about how it spends the public money given to it, and incomplete alignment between the Film Council's and bfi's objectives.

While attempting to increase take up in the regions of the opportunities it provides, most of the bfi's activities are most readily available to people in London and the South East. The recently announced fundamental review of the bfi needs to address the relative roles of the bfi, which is London-based, and regional organisations such as the new regional screen agencies created by the Film Council.

Film in the National Film and Television Archive is decomposing, particularly nitrate film kept by the bfi in old vaults. Film duplicated onto safety stock for safekeeping is now proving more unstable than the original nitrate film. And large quantities of film in the archive which have not been examined and catalogued are not yet accessible to the public, suggesting that the bfi has been unable to keep up with the volume of work. This is an unacceptable state of affairs for the nation's film heritage.

Mr Leigh said today:

"The Film Council needs to ensure it is the strategic leader in developing film culture in the UK and take a much tighter grip over the public funding it provides to the British Film Institute. London IMAX, for example, is a tourist attraction which should be able to operate without taxpayers' support.

I am concerned that the bfi does not know how much of the safety film in the National Film and Television Archive might be decomposing or at risk of deterioration, despite the recent discovery that safety film has actually proved more unstable than the nitrate originals. To ensure the nation's film heritage does not rot away, the fundamental review of the bfi will need to determine clear priorities for the Archive."


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