Sunday, May 24, 2009

Steady Eady

The UK is a country in dire need of radical change to its media landscape.

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher did away with the Eady Levy, which imposed a box office tax on US imported movies that was intended to subsidise domestic production.

Now, most film industries around the world are heavily subsidised in one way or another, either through tax breaks or through location based assistance and a whole industry has grown up around maximising the returns to investors from these breaks.

The UK has, by and large, punched well above its weight since the Eady Levy was abolished (remember 'The Brits Are Coming?').

But now, it is our TV industry that is under threat. 

Skewed, on one hand, by the unequal tax to the BBC which inflates all production costs and destroys the market, and, on the other hand, by the rise of 'unregulated' forces from overseas.

Hulu and YouTube are launching a two pronged attack on the UK's media business, the like of which hasn't been seen before, and this will happen by stealth. Not a single Top 10 internet TV service in the UK is British and commercial (or, indeed, European and commercial).

I am not advocating re-visiting Eady, but Lord Carter's forthcoming report on the broadcast industry needs to be radical and far-reaching and, possibly, needs to have some protectionist element within it, if only to hold Hulu and YouTube to the same regulatory standards as ITV and Channel4.

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