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Written Answers. - Irish Film Industry.

Wednesday, 12 June 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 466 No. 7

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 41. Miss Quill Information on Máirín Quill Zoom on Máirín Quill  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the fresh proposals, if any, he has to boost the Irish film industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12153/96]

 47. Kathleen Lynch Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  the number of films supported by Board Scannán na hÉireann and section 35 in 1995; the number of direct and indirect jobs created; the further proposals, if any, he has for maximising job creation in the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12184/96]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): Information on Michael D. Higgins Zoom on Michael D. Higgins Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 41 agus Uimh. 47 le chéile. The first new proposal I should cite is the extension of a new section 35 package up to mid-1999. Deputies will be aware that, last autumn, having regard to the fact that [1867] section 35 was due to expire this year, I commissioned INDECON Economic Consultants to carry out an indepth review of section 35 and to make recommendations on the form which future State support for the film industry should take. The INDECON Report concluded that section 35 should be continued, notwithstanding the fact that the consultants concluded that it was very costly to the Exchequer. They recommended the introduction of a revised form of section 35 which would place a particular emphasis on support for the indigenous industry, reduce the cost to the Exchequer and increase the investor pool in the economy. The new section 35 package addresses these three objectives, and the final package provided for in the Finance Act 1996, involved significant improvements from that announced in the 1996 budget. These new elements involve: an attractive “top-up” for production in off-peak periods, with a view to providing greater continuity of employment and greater use of the facilities available in the State; and an increase in the limit on investments by companies from £1.05 million to £6 million per annum, with the proviso that £4 million of this £6 million must be invested in films with budgets not exceeding £4 million, subject to a maximum investment of £2 million per project.

These new elements are designed specifically to maximise the direct and indirect potential of Irish employment in the industry, given that films with budgets under £4 million generally have a higher Irish employment content. Other recent or forthcoming measures serving to support film production in Ireland in the years ahead include: the establishment of the National Training Committee for Film and Television to implement the training measures recommended in the STATCOM report entitled “Training Needs to 2000”, with the support of £2.58 million under Ireland's Operational Programme for Industrial Development, up to 1999, with supplementary mainstream funding [1868] from FÁS of up to £250.000 per annum, subject to demand: the intention is that the training initiatives which the National Training Committee is about to embark upon will address the skill shortages in the industry over the period to 1999; the continued interventions in the years to come by STATCOM, the Committee of all relevant State agencies involved in the film industry here: STATCOM has been instrumental in, for example, developing the training initiative for the industry and ensuring an enhanced presence by Irish producers at film and trade festivals, notably at Cannes, Berlin and Venice; the establishment of the new Teilifís na Gaeilge service which has already had a significant impact in commissionings from the independent sector and will continue to do so in the years to come; the establishment of a Screen Commission to promote Ireland as a location for film at the earliest possible opportunity; Ireland's participation in the new EU Media II Programme to the year 2000, which has a budget of 310 million ECU and which will provide support for the European film industry under the key headings of training, development and distribution; during the negotiation of the Media II Programme. I made strong interventions at meetings of the Council of Culture Ministers to ensure that the needs of small countries and regions of low audiovisual production capacity would be taken fully into account, and I am happy to inform the Deputies that the texts of the Council decisions reflect these priorities; my continued support, in principle, for proposals emanating from the European Commission for the establishment of a European Guarantee Fund to promote film and television co-productions; and given the importance for Irish producers to advance their projects by securing co-production partners, my intention to conclude a co-production treaty with Australia before the end of the year and to examine the potential for further such treaties with other countries.

Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board granted production loans to [1869] 15 film projects and seven documentaries in 1995. All of these projects also availed of section 35. In the same year I certified 50 projects under section 35, 33 of which were feature films, the remainder being television productions and animation.

The central database on employment in the film industry is held by IBEC, which produces an annual report on the economic impact of film and television production, including direct and indirect employment.

The Annual Reports of the Audiovisual Production Federation of IBEC for 1993 and 1994 on the Impact of Film Production in Ireland indicate the following figures for full-time job equivalents in each of those years:

  1993 1994
Direct 480 1.115
Indirect 748 842
Total 1.228 1.957

The 1995 figures for direct and indirect employment will be available later this year. Finally, on a more general point, I can inform Deputies that, on 31 May last, Bord Scannán na hÉireann embarked on its tenth application round since its re-establishment in 1993. From that round, the board received 17 applications for production support; 83 applications for development support; 36 applications for its “Real Time” initiative of one-hour dramas in conjunction with RTÉ; nine applications for animation development support; and 17 applications for documentary support. These figures are slightly ahead of the trend in the board's previous application rounds and I believe they indicate the continued potential for the development of a sustained level of film and television production in the State.

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