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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness