Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tax Breaks 'No Cure-All For UK Kids'; The UK's Children's Content Business Voices Support For Government's Promised Production Tax Breaks

From C21Media:
Tax breaks 'no cure-all for UK kids'

The UK children's content business has voiced support for the government’s promised production tax breaks but warned problems with locally created programming remain.

Leading production and broadcast executives met last night at a Westminster Media Forum event in Central London to discuss financing children’s content, two months after the government proposed a tax break system for animation productions, drama and video games.

Sander Schwarz, FremantleMedia Enterprises’ (FME) president of kids’ and family entertainment, Zodiak Kids’ Nigel Pickard and Commercial Broadcasters’ Association (COBA) executive director Adam Minns were among those who supported the plan, although each warned of further hurdles for the UK toon business

In a speech, Schwarz said the tax breaks, details of which have not yet been revealed, would allow producers “to take more creative risks, invest in more series, and participate in the creation and production of a more diverse slate of content.

“The result will be a healthier, more vibrant industry, that will provide more jobs, income, cultural icons and, last but not least, valuable IP that will generate returns and profits to the UK and its economy for generations to come.”

Iain Harvey, founder of The World of Eric Carle prodco The Illuminated Film Company, said that assuming the tax breaks worked “in a similar way relative to the support for the film industry, it would lead to a significant expansion of jobs within the UK animation community.”

But Schwartz warned that while UK producers had “excelled” in preschool programming through series such as Teletubbies, Shaun the Sheep and FME’s CBeebies copro Tree Fu Tom, the same was not true of kids’ comedies – “particularly animated comedies with international appeal, or boys’ action-adventure series.”

“Both of these genres are rife with opportunities for growth for UK producers, both travel exceptionally well and there’s a strong demand from networks and other exhibitors around the world for this sort of fare.”

Pickard, CEO of kids' and family at Zodiak Media Middle East, Africa, Asia and the UK, later said tax credits would be “hugely advantageous” to the industry but warned: “It does little to solve the problem of the lack of UK-produced content on our screens.”

He called for more “plurality” and “range” in content and claimed: “In fact, there are some producers who fear that the tax incentive will mean more animation is commissioned at the expense of the budgets for drama and factual. Just look at the French children’s scene for a prime example of how this can happen.”

Meanwhile, Minns, whose COBA group represents channels such as Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, supported the proposed system and said commercial networks had “quietly become important investors in UK children’s programming.”

COBA members spend about £20m (US$31.6m) a year on new UK children’s content, he said, making them “collectively the largest source of investment for UK children’s programmes after the publicly funded BBC and [Welsh pubcaster] S4C.”

But Minns added that COBA welcomed the proposed system. “We see the tax credit as an opportunity to build on what the UK already has, by attracting shows that would otherwise be made overseas.”

Jesse Whittock

TAGS: Tax breaks

GENRES: Animation, Children's

SHOWS: Shaun the Sheep, Teletubbies, The World of Eric Carle, Tree Fu Tom

PEOPLE: Adam Minns, Iain Harvey, Kay Benbow, Nigel Pickard, Sander Schwarz

COMPANIES: Cartoon Network, COBA, Disney, FremantleMedia Enterprises, Nickelodeon, S4C, The Illuminated Film Company, Zodiak Media