Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (BSÉ/IFB) is concerned that the recommendations in the Report of Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes (An Bord Snip Nua), as they refer to BSÉ/IFB, could have substantial and unanticipated negative economic consequences outside of the immediate public sector area that is the primary focus of the Report.
To be clear, the Report recommends the abolition of the Irish Film Board, the winding-up of its investment funds and the transfer of its enterprise functions to Enterprise Ireland.
Government funding, provided directly to the sector through BSÉ/IFB (€18.8m in 2009), is a key component of the entire audiovisual content industry. A recent survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers valued Ireland’s audiovisual content industry at over half a billion euro per annum and found that it now offers permanent employment to over 6,000 individuals. The industry in turn supports an ecology that generates many other indirect employment benefits arising out of production activities around the country.
The immediate loss of employment that withdrawal of BSÉ/IFB funding will cause is likely to cost the State in excess of the sought after savings. Further, the strategic importance of Ireland’s content industries to the creation of a Smart Economy – as described in the Government’s recent policy paper “Building Ireland’s Smart Economy” – is also at risk of being undermined.
The funding provided through BSÉ/IFB attracts additional finance that today supports an increasing level of private sector employment. The growth potential of the audiovisual content industry, as an essential component of the Smart Economy strategy, represents one of the best prospects of employment for young people seeking jobs in the future. For these reasons we believe it is important, in the context of the immediate crisis in the public finances, to ask Government to consider carefully the economic impact and employment consequences of this particular recommendation.
To be taken into consideration also are the consequences for Ireland if it were to become the only developed country in the world producing no films for the cinema, and thereby losing the most powerful tool available for establishing and sustaining its cultural identity abroad. It is well understood by all countries that the projection of an image of a country, its people and its way of life onto the screens of the world pays direct dividends in terms of inward investment, trade in goods and services, and tourism. Almost one in two US tourists to Ireland now state that their decision to come was triggered by seeing Ireland in the movies.
If the case for maintaining an Irish audiovisual content industry stands up, then we can demonstrate that BSÉ/IFB, through the accumulated knowledge and expertise of its staff, and their core competence in managing the business of creativity, is fit for today’s purpose. The effectiveness of the agency’s policies and the efficiency of its operation, at a cost of 10% of its total annual funding, compare favourably when benchmarked against similar agencies in other European and English-speaking countries, as well as against other Irish State Agencies.