TV tax relief: too much success?
The introduction of a tax credit for high-end drama and animation in April confirmed the importance of television production to the UK economy. Six months on, how much of an impact has it made? We attended Westminster Media Forum's event to hear what some of the leading industry experts had to say.
The TV production incentive follows the UK's successful 2007 filming tax relief, and with its focus on high-end productions Will Cohen, CEO of visual effects facility Milk, believes it shows that TV is no longer just the little brother of film. "For creative integrity television is a growing and beautiful medium. It is certainly not the poor relation anymore."
With a minimum spend of £1m per hour of scheduling time to qualify for the high-end drama incentive, poor is definitely not the word that springs to mind.
Yet while this high threshold disqualifies many TV dramas, early reports suggest that the tax credit is already having a significant effect on the industry.
"On a simple level, UK productions have stayed here," said Harry Eastwood, investment director at Ingenious Media. "There are a number of dramas we're working on at the moment which might have gone to Eastern Europe but are now staying, and US productions are coming over here."
Two recent Endemol series provide a good case study on the effect of the tax credit on UK productions.
The first series of 2012 drama Ripper Street, which follows the aftermath of the Whitechapel murders, was commissioned before the tax credit was on the table. It used Dublin as a stand-in for Victorian London, taking advantage of Ireland's generous tax break.
In contrast, Peaky Blinders, the recently broadcast series about Birmingham gangs in the 1920s, was planned with the incentive in mind. Filming took place in Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool throughout the end of last year and the second season, commissioned at the end of October, will benefit from the tax credit.
Ripper Street: filmed in Ireland Peaky Blinders: filmed in the UK
If the tax credit has boosted the high-end drama sector, the effect on animation has been even more striking.
"Everyone agrees that the animation tax credit has breathed new life into what was a very flat sector in the UK," said Ingenious's Eastwood.
Ollie Hyatt of animation company Blue-Zoo productions, believes that the sector has been a "sleeping giant". He recounted that in 2008 the UK had only two animation projects in production. This year the number is ten times that, with 20 shows already underway. And that is only counting those being made entirely in the UK.