The Audiovisual Federation, the IBEC group that represents the audiovisual sector in Ireland, today said that Budget 2017 must include strategic measures to strengthen Ireland’s credentials as a world leader within the audiovisual sector. Restoring the €20 million capital funding allocation of the Irish Film BoardFís Éireann / Screen IrelandFís Éireann/Screen Ireland (FÉ/SI) is the national development agency for Irish filmmaking and the Irish film, television and animation industry., early confirmation of the extension of the Section 481 tax incentives beyond 2020 along with more robust anti-piracy measures will facilitate further audiovisual sector growth.

The Audiovisual Federation proposes the following measures in its budget submission:

Restore the €20 million capital funding allocation of the Irish Film Board: It is vital that in future the Government benchmarks the funding to the Irish Film Board annually against similar agencies in other jurisdictions so that indigenous talent is leveraged and international investment is attracted.

Deliver tax incentives: Confirm the extension of the Section 481 tax based production incentive beyond 2020 and signal this to the market no later than three years before that. Ensure the competitiveness of these incentives through an international benchmarking review every two years.

More rigorous licence fee collection: Stabilise the funding of public service broadcasting through improved television licence fee collection.

Stronger anti-piracy measures: Improve awareness of the economic damage cause by digital piracy and encourage more effective enforcement of anti-piracy measures.

Audiovisual Federation Director Torlach Denihan said:

Currently there is strong momentum within the audiovisual sector. Ireland has an unparalleled opportunity to build on the international recognition gained at the Oscars and elsewhere during 2015/16. A strategic approach to the industry is now needed in order to capitalise on its strong potential for further growth.

The sector faces fierce international competition for inward investment from a range of countries, the UK including Northern Ireland in particular, using a mixture of tax based production incentives and direct subvention. Competition from the latter is set to increase because continued weakening in sterling versus the euro is likely.

As an immediate measure the Irish Film Board’s capital funding allocation must be restored to €20 million in the forthcoming budget. To ensure that funding is adequate it should be benchmarked on an annual basis against similar agencies in other jurisdictions so that indigenous talent is leveraged and international investment is attracted.

The Section 481 tax based production incentive is crucial to employment in the sector and should be extended beyond 2020. Crucially, this must be signalled to the market no later than three years before 2020 because of the long planning horizons associated with audiovisual productions. A lack of clarity may lead to a loss of business and missed opportunities. In this regard it must be noted that almost all other EU member states provide tax based production incentives and that the UK enhanced its offering in recent years.

In view of the recent statement by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that there are no plans to proceed with the public service broadcasting charge, the television licence fee is the only available source of stable financing in the medium term. This makes it imperative that the current unacceptable level of evasion regarding the television licence fee is addressed as a matter of urgency.

Digital piracy is a major concern to the audiovisual sector and it inflicts significant damage on the economy. Research by Grant Thornton concludes that digital piracy caused the loss of over 500 jobs in 2015 and cost the Exchequer €71 million in lost revenue. There is a need for a greater awareness of the economic harm caused by digital piracy, a more effective anti-piracy strategy and stronger enforcement.

The Audiovisual Federation urges the implementation of the above measures in tandem with a collaborative effort between the public service and industry to produce a strategic blueprint for the long term development of the sector, with follow up implementation via a public service/industry steering group. With enough support and planning we can build on the current run of success and make Ireland an even more attractive location for film and television production so that the potential of Ireland’s talent pool can be maximised.

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