Broadcasters and government agencies need to improve how they support the screen industry in Scotland so the country can maximise the benefits of new funding streams and soaring global demand for content.
In a major new report, the Culture, Tourism Europe and External Relations Committee recommends that money from Scottish Enterprise is transferred to a new standalone agency for Scotland, which the Committee recommended be set up to support the industry in its interim report published in May.
The report also asks the incoming Executive Director of the Screen Unit being formed inside Creative Scotland to prioritise the delivery of a film studio, put an industry engagement strategy in place and immediately launch a long planned online screen portal.
The report also says the BBC and other public service broadcasters must commission more content from Scotland and Ofcom should tighten the definition of what constitutes a Scottish production. It recommends that ITV should have a quota of production spend in the nations, as currently applies to the BBC and Channel Four.
The Committee’s report, Making Scotland a Screen Leader, was the culmination of a six-month inquiry which heard from over 50 witnesses and it repeats the recommendation of its interim report that the Screen Unit should evolve into a standalone agency. This is the model other countries and regions use to support their screen industries.
The Committee repeated its concerns that the governance arrangements of the new Screen Unit, which was supposed to be launched in April but is now late, were too bureaucratic and light on industry involvement. It points out that Creative Scotland does not have the business development expertise needed to support screen industries while Scottish Enterprise, a key partner in the Screen Unit, has consistently failed to understand the needs of film and TV companies.
Speaking ahead of the report’s launch at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“These are exciting times for screen in Scotland. The launch of the new BBC channel and Glasgow’s impressive bid for the Channel 4 national headquarters, which this Committee supports, reflects real confidence in Scotland’s screen sector. New Scottish Government funding for production, along with UK tax incentives, come as global demand for content soars. It’s a perfect storm of opportunity, and the Committee wants Scotland to grasp it.
“But we know that despite some successes, such as Outlander, Scotland has fallen behind in screen relative to other parts of the UK. Our Committee sets out clear steps to get us on track to become a global screen leader – based on extensive engagement with the industry itself. There are challenges here for Ofcom and broadcasters as well as public agencies. We will continue to monitor their response.”
Deputy Convener of the Committee Claire Baker MSP said:
“We share the collective frustrations of the screen sector in Scotland over the inability of public sector agencies to take the right action to enable our screen sector to flourish on a global scale. We met many talented, passionate people working in the industry who were united in their desire to see Scotland succeed.
“The Committee also shares that ambition. We are confident that the proposals we have set out today will result in positive action and that the industry will get behind our timetable for action to make Scotland a global leader in screen."
The Committee also published an interim report into this issue earlier this year.