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Ed Vaizey

Why film and TV are key to economic growth

This week will see James Bond return to our screens when “Skyfall”, the 23rd instalment of the most successful movie franchise ever, premieres in cinemas around the UK.

Probably the most globally-anticipated cinematic release of 2012, Bond has well and truly stood the test of time. This latest film is a brilliant example of what the British film industry is capable of, made at the iconic 007 sound stage at Pinewood and in locations in London, by a British director with a British star.

The release of the Bond film – alongside the best ever attended London Film Festival – is a useful moment to recall the massive contribution the film industry makes to economic growth. The industry now supports 117,000 direct and indirect jobs overall (up from 100,000 in 2009), and last year the sector attracted inward investment to the tune of almost £1 billion. This investment is supported by the film tax credit, which we have extended until 2015.

Important work to support the film industry is also done by the British Film Institute (BFI) - where funding is increasing by 40 per cent - the BBC and Film4. The BFI have recently published their vision for the future of British Film and outlined the ways in which they will work to ensure the industry continues to go from strength to strength. Incidentally, HM the Queen visited the BFI this week. As well as starring with her at the opening of the Olympics, it is also worth noting that despite his long career, Bond has only ever served one monarch.

In National Schools Film Week it’s only right that to note how important it is for us to nurture home-grown talent to create the next generation of industry professionals. The best way of doing this is to get young people engaging with film from an early age and work has begun on a single, unified offer for watching, making and learning about film through an open-access scheme aimed at 5 – 19 year olds. I’m pleased to see the BFI is planning to put significant sums behind film education over the next few years.

Highclere Castle the setting for TV show Downton AbbeyThe film industry’s close relation – TV – is also punching well above its weight. International sales of UK TV programmes generated almost £1.5 billion last year, an almost 10 per cent increase from the previous year. According to a report by the Commercial Broadcasters Association, we attract ten times more inward investment than the rest of Europe put together and the sector is worth about £4.2 billion a year to the UK economy.

This story is likely to get even better. Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced that he will introduce corporation tax reliefs for the animation, high-end television and video games industries from April 2013, subject to State Aid approval from the European Commission. There are two main reasons for doing this - encouraging investment in the UK and promoting the production of cultural products. It’s been estimated that this could generate an extra £350 million per year for the industry, boost tourism and make the UK a magnet for talent, investment and development.

2012 is drawing to a close and it won’t be long until the season of Christmas specials start. When you curl up in front of Downton (pictured above), hear the “doof doof” of the Eastenders Christmas special, or cheer wildly for your favourite Strictly couple, keep in mind that what you’re watching is a lot more than just entertainment – it’s a key part of getting our economy back on track.

Highclere Castle image by JBUK Planet on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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