Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Creative Europe?

Press release just in...

European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has unveiled details of Creative Europe, the European Commission’s planned new Programme for the cultural and creative sector, as part of its proposal for the EU’s multi-annual budget for 2014-2020.

The Creative Europe Programme intends to support the cultural and creative sectors. With a proposed budget of €1.8 billion for the period 2014-2020, it will be a much-needed boost for the cultural and creative industries, which are a major source of jobs and growth in Europe.

"This investment will help tens of thousands of culture and audiovisual professionals to make the most of the Single Market and to reach new audiences in Europe and beyond; without this support, it would be difficult or impossible for them to break into new markets. Creative Europe also promotes cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as contributing to our Europe 2020 objectives for jobs and sustainable growth," said Vassiliou.

The Commission's Creative Europe proposal would enable:
- 300 000 artists and cultural professionals and their work to receive funding to reach new audiences beyond their home countries;
- More than 1 000 European films would receive distribution support, enabling them to be seen by audiences throughout Europe and the world;
- At least 2 500 European cinemas would receive funding enabling them to ensure that at least 50% of the films they screen are European;
- More than 5 500 books and other literary works would receive support for translation, allowing readers to enjoy them in their mother tongue;
- Thousands of cultural organisations and professionals would benefit from training to gain new skills and to strengthen their capacity to work internationally;
- At least 100 million people would be reached through the projects financed by the programme.

The new Programme would allocate more than €900 million in support of the cinema and audiovisual sector (area covered by current MEDIA programme) and almost €500 million for culture. The Commission is also proposing to allocate more than €210 million for a new financial guarantee facility.

The proposed €1.8 billion budget for Creative Europe represents a 37% increase on current spending level.

The current MEDIA Programme (2007-2013) has a budget of €755 million with an additional €15 million for MEDIA Mundus which supports international cooperation.

The Creative Europe proposal is now under discussion by the Council (27 Member States) and the European Parliament who will take the final decision on the budgetary framework for 2014-2020.

Further information on Creative Europe is available at this link.

I have to say I have reservations about the Commission's funding in this area.

For one thing the measurement of outcomes has, heretofore, been laden with political spin and interference. For another, the consultation survey on MEDIA was geared to business interests rather than cultural outcomes. And, lastly, the emphasis on businesses as the appropriate intermediary mode of production and delivery of culturally valuable endeavour is, in my opinion, deeply flawed.

This from the FAQ:
Are individuals eligible to apply for funding?
Creative Europe will not be open to applications from individuals. But around 300,000 individual artists and cultural professionals, as well as training institutions, will be reached through the projects submitted by cultural organisations. This is a much more cost-effective way to achieve results and a lasting impact.

And from the official Communication
The MEDIA Strand will increase resources for distribution, including increased and more focused funding for sales agents to allow for the emergence of stronger sales agents with higher buying and selling power on the international market.
Strengthening support to Europe-based international co-production funds will boost co-production between European and non-European producers, increasing the number and improving the quality of the works, and thereby contributing to further opening international markets.
Independent video games developers will benefit from new growth markets through facilitated access to funding. The result would be increased competitiveness of SMES, increased revenues, bigger market share, and widening the audience.
As well as increasing the global competitiveness of the European cultural and creative sectors and their scale, the Culture and MEDIA Strands will improve the offer of content available for consumers, with positive impacts on cultural diversity and European cultural identity.
New direct and focused support to audience-building measures is expected to generate new audiences and thereby increase consumer demand, although the scale of this effect is uncertain and will require a long-term approach. By reaching previously excluded social groups, this could also have benefits for social cohesion. The benefits of increased demand would flow through the value chain to stimulate increased circulation of works, new revenue streams and to improve the competitiveness of the sectors.
By improving access to finance for the cultural and creative sectors through improved investment and investor readiness, the new financial Facility will increase the capacity of these sectors to attract private finance, strengthen their financial capacity and the commercial potential of works, thereby strengthening their competitiveness and opening up new opportunities for growth and employment. It will also lessen SMEs' dependence on public subsidies in some cases, while opening up new revenue streams in others.
The support for transnational policy cooperation will help to increase the availability of comparable data which will facilitate more effective evidence-based policy-making. This can strengthen national policy environments for the cultural and creative sectors and contribute to systemic change. The possibility to test and share experience and knowledge on new business models will contribute to helping the sectors adapt to the digital shift, bringing new employment and growth opportunities.

Reads to this observer like a bad case of cultural needles amid 'commercial' haystacks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill 2011

A correspondent has sent me on a link to the opening session (2nd stage)debate on this piece of legislation.

It is an essential piece of legislation to allow the IFB to continue to offer funding as it will otherwise have run out of money by the end of the year. I was aware of this but not of the exact timing.

As things stand the total funding available to the agency is €200million, increased from €101.5million since 2006. In other words, the IFB has spent €98.5million since the beginning of 2007. I do not know if this includes funds that have been recouped or refers only to annual budget vote from the Oireachtas.

It is now proposed to increase the ceiling to €300million. The debate does provide an opportunity to discuss the work of the IFB in the Oireachtas but there may be more pressing matters on Deputies' and Senators' minds.

Update - link to the full debate here. A little too much unquestioning acceptance of the figures produced by various reports in recent years.

Richard Boyd Barrett ended with -
I ask the Minister to comment on an issue that has been raised with me by a number of people in recent days. The individuals who contacted me pointed out that some of our tax incentive schemes amount to tax scams for certain wealthy elements in society as they are essentially a risk free investment on which wealthy people avoid tax. It was also suggested to me that Anglo Irish Bank was up to its neck in lending to companies in this area but is not chasing them up for the moneys owed to the bank, and these same companies are not paying what they owe to technicians and the people who actually make the movies. I would like the Minister to comment on that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Art of Counting

An update report from Indecon, Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland, was released by the Arts Council yesterday. We'll leave aside the general drift towards valuing or measuring the Arts in this way, particularly as an agenda-setter in the lead up to the annual Budget.

Consider instead the following information given with regard to film and see if it's possible to make the numbers fit with those contained in reports commissioned by the Irish Film Board in recent years.

Disparities may be down to several things, not least what's being counted and what the methodological basis is for the exercise. I can't help wondering if, for instance, the whole commercial cinema distribution and exhibition sector has been included or excluded.

Note particularly the last table which offers a subdivision by GVA (gross value added) of the 'Creative Industries'.

In order to determine the contribution of the wider arts sector to the Irish economy, it is necessary to consider both the Arts Council-supported organisations and individuals, and others not funded directly by the Council. In this chapter, the key impact variables assessed include Gross Value Added (GVA), expenditure, employment and exchequer tax revenues. (my emphasis in bold)

Gross Value Added (GVA) is defined as the difference between the value of goods and services produced for any given sector and the cost of intermediate inputs and consumption used in the production process. It is the nearest equivalent at sector level to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) when measured across the economy as a whole.
In Table 3.1 [above] we estimate the GVA contribution of the relevant sub-sectors within the wider arts sector, as outlined above. The overall GVA contribution of the wider arts sector to the national economy was estimated to be approximately €715.9 million during 2010.
The largest subsector in terms of its contribution to overall GVA impact is Literature and Publishing, which accounts for an estimated €372.2 million. The next largest contribution is that of the film and video sub industry, amounting to an estimated €108.4 million. Arts Council-supported organisations account for a significant portion of the overall gross value added by the sector, contributing an estimated €52.3 million of the overall wider arts sector GVA.

Table 3.2 [above] presents the estimates of the total expenditure of the wider arts sector for 2010. This expenditure impacts the economy directly, indirectly and through induced impacts. The total direct expenditure impact of the wider arts sector in the Irish economy is estimated to be approximately €1.2 billion in 2010. Taking into account the multiplier impacts of this direct spend, the overall aggregate impact amounts to €1.55 billion. The largest contributor to the overall direct expenditure impact of the wider arts sector is the Literature and Publishing sector, which accounted for €563.3 million of the overall direct expenditure impact. Other significant contributors in terms of expenditure impacts include Film and Video, and Library, Archives, Museums and Other Cultural Activities, which contributed €151.6 million and €181.7 million respectively to the overall direct expenditure impact during 2010.

Public service reform news...

...actually there's little or no news for the film and broadcast areas in the Government's plans for public sector reform, which may be a source of relief.

So no abolition, merger or review is on the cards for the Irish Film Board (IFB) or the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO). There was consideration given in the past to merging or folding IFCO into the BAI - a proposal that may have had the only merit of offering the BAI an additional source of revenue.

The Government's plan does include a possible merger of the Commission for Communication Regulation with the BAI, and a merger of the Digital Hub with the IDA/Enterprise Ireland.

Lastly, the decentralisation of the Arts Council to Kilkenny has officially been kicked into touch. It was never going to happen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Magma - The last chapter?

Magma European Scripting House Ltd (MESH), trading as Magma Films, is listed for strike off with most of the creditors no wiser than they were back in March when the company's difficulties (and liabilities) were made known. As to the fate of the monies owed to creditors - including the Revenue, Anglo Irish Bank, and Galway City Council - your guess is as good as mine.

From the Company Registration Office:
Type Company
Number 239014
Registered 04/10/1995
Status Strike Off Listed
Effective date: 13/11/2011
Last AR Date 30/09/2009
Next AR Date 30/09/2010
Last Accounts to Date 31/12/2008

Magma Films is a business name of MESH so presumably its fate will be determined along with that of the company. Both names still give a registered address at Merchants Road, Galway although no part of the business has been at that address for some time.

Meanwhile, to add to the confusion, a new business name, Magma Productions, was registered in September. Regular readers will recall that Magma Productions Ltd changed its name to Tidal Films Ltd earlier this year.

Type Business Name
Number 449400
Registered 21/09/2011
Status Normal
Effective date: 21/09/2011

Previous Magma posts -
Magma - Section 481
Keeping company...
Dear Ralph...
Ralph replies...
Assets, Rights & Responsibilities
The Magma Saga - ep #5...

(and some more info in the comments below)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Much ado about Noth etc.

Useful bit of PR pick up in the press last week on Minister Deenihan's set visit to of Titanic - Blood & Steel. It's always interesting to see how the mainstream papers report the industry. As usual there is a concentration on the stars - Chris Noth aka 'Mr Big', in this instance - and the numbers.

The headline numbers given for the show were €22m production, €12m Irish spend, and €12m raised in Ireland through Section 481 and a 'grant' of €300,000 from the Irish Film Board.

However, there is no mention of this production funding in the IFB's lists of decisions made over the last year. Nor is there any mention of the IFB involvement in the lead producer's information on the project.

No mention either in the press reports of the pickets which were a problem at one stage during prep in Dublin. I hear Minister Howlin, ICTU, SIPTU et al are working to clarify some of the issues and misconceptions that gave rise to several rancorous industrial relations situations this year.

The Light House Cinema belatedly re-entered the public consciousness with a report from Laura Slattery and Ronan McGreevy in the Irish Times on Friday last. Use the search box above (top left) to find my previous posts on the cinema's closure earlier in the year.

Still difficult to see how the situation might be best resolved given the potentially competing interests of the landlord (who has an obligation to NAMA in respect of the development) and the State, which has invested some €2m in the venture through the Arts Dept, the IFB and the Arts Council, (and is also carrying NAMA). IFCO also contributes an annual fee of €120,000 to use the cinema for classification screenings.

There may be questions of competitive supply of 'product' to other cinema outlets should either of the two reported potential bidders be successful, since both of them are also film distributors. There is no indication given in the report that any of the personnel previously involved in the cinema might be associated with either bid.

Here's some reading material you may have missed in recent years. It's a Departmental Irish Film Board expenditure review concluded in August, 2008.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pro Bono... really?

This notice is doing the rounds...

Open Auditions for TV3 television production
Looking for actors/extras both male and female between the ages of 21 and 40 for re-enactments in the TV3 television series “Crimes that shook Ireland”
Auditions will take place on Sunday the 13th of November between 11am and 2pm in: Muzzle music rehearsal studios, Unit G6A Chapelizod Industrial Estate, Dublin 20
All work will be pro-bono
For more information please contact Joe on 087 611 6327
or e-mail

Wikipedia defines pro bono as follows - "Pro bono publico (English: for the public good; usually shortened to pro bono) is a Latin phrase generally used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service... Pro bono service, unlike traditional volunteerism, uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them."

Poor TV3, doubtless it will be offering its advertising time free, pro bono before during and after these programmes.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

BAI Sound & Vision 2012 Deadlines

The following release just in from the BAI.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has announced the 2012 closing dates for applications to Sound & Vision II [The Broadcasting Funding Scheme] during 2012.

The Broadcasting Funding Scheme aims to increase public access at national, local and community level to television and sound broadcasting programmes in English and Irish which explore the themes of Irish culture, heritage and experience, in contemporary or historic contexts. The Scheme provides funding to broadcasters and independent producers to enable them to produce such programmes.

Four open rounds will be operated during 2012, each with funding of up to €3.5m available towards the production of television and/or radio programmes. The closing dates for the rounds, which will accept radio and television applications, are as follows: 27th January; 13th April; 13th July; 14th September.

The revised round structure has been developed based on stakeholder feedback. The increased number of closing dates is intended to make it easier for applicants to submit fully developed projects at different stages throughout the year.

Speaking about the announcement, Michael O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the BAI said, The Authority is delighted to be able to make between €12-14 million available for new, quality programming in 2012 especially given the funding challenges that the broadcasting sector is facing. In recent years the competition for funds has understandably increased. To secure funding from the scheme, applications must be fully developed and ready to go into production.

In addition, the Authority is highlighting the fact that funding a diverse range of programming, in terms of genre and formats, is a strategic objective of the Scheme. This will be measured within individual rounds and across the year. The BAI expects that the new round structure will help the Scheme to achieve a greater mix in this regard.

Sound & Vision II is a grant funding scheme – not a commissioning process. The BAI hopes that the shorter timeframe between closing dates will increase the standard of the applications being submitted in any one round. We also believe this new approach will allow the Scheme deliver to a greater extent the core scheme objectives of increasing audience access to high quality programmes across a range of genres and formats, said Michael O’Keeffe.

Further information on the Scheme is available on