Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whither the ACPISFG?

The Audiovisual Content Production Industry Strategy Framework Group - "the name is a mouthful," to quote former Minister Martin Cullen - has been toiling away on the future of the "industry" for a year or more, following on the publication of the Irish Film Board's Irish Audiovisual Content Production Sector Review in early 2009.

That review and the survey that underpinned it are, in my view, practically useless because of the overly broad approach, compounded by patchy sample and return rates.

It set out to tailor a new empirical suit of clothes for the audiovisual sector but the headline results, which have been cited ad nauseam by lobbyists and a succession of Ministers are largely meaningless.

Take the public funding away - the TV License Fee (including Sound & Vision); TG4; IFB finance; Section 481 - and there is little evidence of a self-sustaining business model for Irish 'independent' producers. This is implicit in the age-profile and attrition rate of employees leaving the sector, downplayed in the Review.

If the ACPISFG has been established with the Review dataset as its foundation then it's resting on a shaky set of premises. Membership of the ACPISFG has not been published so we don't know if it's made up of a self-serving coterie of policy influencers or a group of people with a broader view who can see the wood for the trees.

Back at the end of June the Minister referred to the ACPISFG in answering a question from Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.

He asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, the number of meetings she has had with Bord Scannán na hÉireann since she assumed her role in the Department; her plans to support the film industry here; the discussions she has had with the Irish Film Board over the popularity of home produced cinema at the box office; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that often films can be designated Irish when they may not be deserving of this title for a number of reasons; her views on whether the amount invested into Irish cinema represents value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport (Deputy Mary Hanafin): Primary responsibility for the support and promotion of film-making in Ireland in respect of both the indigenous sector and inward productions is a matter for the Irish Film Board (IFB). This agency is funded through my Department and is independent of the Department in its operations. In terms of value for money, it is worth pointing out that three of the nominations for Academy Awards earlier this year were for projects that were funded by the Irish Film Board and that employment in the Irish audiovisual content production industry was established at over 6,500 in a review carried out for the Irish Film Board.
An Audiovisual Content Production Industry Strategy Framework Group was established last year that will assist in providing a clear vision for the future of the industry and response to market changes. I anticipate receipt of that report in the early Autumn. Since I was appointed Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, I have met the Chairman and executives of the Irish Film Board. The Irish Film Board has confirmed to me any films designated as Irish, have to meet the relevant co-production treaty rules.
[my emphasis]

Any day now, then.

I wonder will it include a recommendation that the remit of the Irish Co-production Film Board be expanded to include the video-gaming business? It's not as if its role hasn't already been expanded to support businesses that would not be viable without its money. The last thing we need is unsustainable gaming businesses in parallel with our unsustainable film businesses.

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