Media Viewpoint: Ten million reasons why the cameras will roll: David Elstein bites back at Michael Grade for calling BSkyB's latest film deal an 'insult to viewers'

Michael Grade, in his attack here last week on BSkyB, claimed that BSkyB's deal with British Screen was 'an insult to viewers and producers'. Readers of the Independent must wonder why such a deal, if it is as bad as Grade says, should be endorsed by the whole British Screen board, the film producers' organisation Pact and the Department of National Heritage. Perhaps some facts will help.

British Screen helps to fund more films than any other organisation in the UK. Its shareholders include Rank, Granada and Channel 4 and it receives pounds 4m every year from the government to invest in films.

BSkyB has now guaranteed to British Screen that it will license pay-television rights on at least 10 films a year for one or other of its movie channels, at a cost of at least pounds 2m a year.

In addition to this pounds 6m, three-year commitment to British Screen, BSkyB has said it will offer a minimum prints and advertising budget of pounds 65,000 to any UK producer whose film is guaranteed a theatrical release. The total BSkyB spend on British films will be at least pounds 10m in three years.

The fact is that BSkyB has created additional revenue for all film producers, which will now benefit British producers in a way that will make them the envy of Europe. Grade off-handedly refers to this revenue as 'taking hundreds of millions from British viewers'. Would he similarly describe the activities of cinemas and video shops?

It is also quite false to describe the deal as non-risk-taking. All BSkyB's money is committed before a single film is made, let alone released, and cash-flowed on terms rather more favourable than Channel 4's for film producers. BSkyB exercises no creative controls, requires no screen credits and does not pick and choose between projects. We are determined not to follow Channel 4 and force cinema producers to make niche- market films for television. Nor will we play favourites with producers.

An important fact is that British Screen initiated the deal with BSkyB after Channel 4 abandoned a similar negotiation with BSkyB, offering a series of tortuous excuses for rejecting a pounds 1m- a-year deal. Grade asserts he is willing to co-fund films with BSkyB, but my last written offer to him has been followed by nine months' silence.

The main BSkyB negotiation with British Screen was completed by August, and money should have started flowing to producers in September. That it has not is entirely Channel 4's fault. For six months, Grade has tried every tactic to block the deal. There were threats to remove British Screen's chief executive, threats never to co-finance films with them again and even threats to pull out of British Screen, all combined with a series of bizarre 'reasons' why the deal should be frustrated.

Channel 4's petulant and mean-spirited opposition finally proved self-destructive. Having opposed the original deal, which would have allowed British Screen to exclude at least three films a year for Channel 4 from BSkyB's automatic entitlement, Grade found himself forced to accept a revised version, under which the exclusions disappeared, due to pressure from film producers.

This has not been one of Grade's finest negotiating displays. Perhaps the humiliation of the outcome explains his whinge that 'there is no evidence that this deal will enable a single extra film to be made'. Does he really think British Screen, with a 30 per cent increase in spending power, will be unable to fund a single extra film?

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Grade has allowed his deep hostility to BSkyB to affect his judgement. Last week, in apparent retaliation for the BSkyB deal, he made clear he would no longer co-produce with British Screen, and offered to sell all Channel 4's shares in the company. To whom? To Sky Television. Another tantrum? Or just keen disappointment that British Screen has had the temerity to conclude an agreement with a broadcaster other than Channel 4? Let the 'insulted' viewers and producers be the judge.

The author is Director of Programmes at BSkyB.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'