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John McVay gives evidence at inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting

The House of Lords Communications Committee recently launched an inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting in the context of the rising popularity of video on demand. Over the past few weeks, the Committee has heard from academics, producers, union representatives and commercial broadcasters. Pact Chief Executive John McVay was invited to give evidence yesterday as part of the Committee’s inquiry.

John began by speaking about the success of the British audiovisual sector; the UK is the second most successful audiovisual economy in the world after the US. Although the sector and the public service broadcasters are facing challenges at the moment, John emphasised that there will always be challenges and the remedy to tackle these comes from making great content that people want to watch.

Nations and regions were an important topic at the session. Baroness Quin asked how Pact feels about how the PSBs are appealing to and representing the nations and regions, including local productions. John discussed the positive impact that large scale, returning series like Game of Thrones can have on local economies. John emphasised that returning series are the way to grow local production economies; short runs and singles make this difficult. Pact is currently working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in Leeds on how to make the money available work for creative businesses in the area. It’s important for the LEPs to understand that creative businesses have different needs.

The Terms of Trade have been a topic of conversation throughout the inquiry. John discussed the importance of the Terms of Trade to Pact members and producers. Even though there has been pressure on the terms since the legislation passed, subsequent reviews have found they are still fit for purpose and important for a thriving creative production economy in the UK. Pact has recently completed new terms with Viacom and ITV, and is currently in negotiations with another broadcaster on new terms.

Baroness Macintosh inquired about the high-end TV (HETV) tax relief, which has been a frequent topic of conversation through previous evidence sessions. John discussed the work he did with the then Chancellor, George Osbourne, on the tax credits. At the time, the UK production sector found it difficult to compete in international markets, which is why they were brought in. The HETV tax relief has been a huge success and has made UK drama far more competitive internationally.

Pact would like to thank the Communications Committee for the opportunity to give evidence at the Lords and looks forward to their final report on the topic, which we will inform members of in due course.

The other witnesses who gave evidence during yesterday’s session were Alistair Law (Head of Policy, UK and Ireland, Sky), Adam Minns (Executive Director, Commercial Broadcasters Association) and Charles Lauder (Chief Executive Officer, Indie Club).

Watch a recording of the session in full here.