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Landmark report outlines 'obstacle course' faced by indies

A major report on the independent production sector has been published by industry think tank the Research Centre for Television and Interactivity .
Hailed as a landmark report 'Risky Business: Inside the Indies' highlights some of the critical barriers to growth and success for independent companies in the nations and regions, and recommends strategies to overcome them.
The study found that uncertainty contributed to overcautious thinking, as many companies feel that their position in the broadcasting environment is inherently unpredictable. This results in widespread 'risk aversion' and minimal business planning. The peculiar nature of the industry, with companies regularly facing periods of intense activity followed by drought, influences almost every decision.
The report also asserts that most companies accept that the TV industry continues to be based on close personal working relationships, especially between commissioners and production companies. However, a number of commissioning practices came under fire. While programme development processes have been formalised at many of the companies, networking and marketing activities remain low on the list of priorities for most. This can stunt the aquisition of new business.
The report also detailed how geography, internal administration and occasionally flawed perceptions of the value of goods and services limited, or at least influenced, the growth of the independent sector.
Risky Business involved over one hundred in-depth interviews, carried out from Spring 2001 to Spring 2002. Detailed case studies were made of eight independent TV companies from across the UK, with a further four companies providing overviews of their activities – an interview base of around 70 staff. In addition, over 30 interviews with relevant experts were completed.
Carol Sinclair, Director of the Research Centre, said it was a landmark report: “We are committed to helping independent production companies to realise their ambitions. Our study clarifies for the first time the complexity of the challenges facing businesses in this sector.
“We will use the findings to help shape our strategy and our work with independent producers in the nations and regions. I believe the report should be read by everyone with a genuine interest in developing our creative industries.”
Stuart Cosgrove, Head of Channel 4 Nations and Regions, added: “The broadcasting industry has been undergoing something of a revolution over the last couple of years with new and very welcome statutory targets for regional production and changes to the legislative process.
“This fascinating report therefore provides a timely look at the SME indie sector and reminds us that there is no magic formula for success. Rather, there is a range of key areas that indies can address to ensure that no stone is left unturned in their quest for sustainable growth.”
The stated purpose of the report is to enable companies to learn from the experiences of their colleagues and competitors in dealing with issues common to all. However, it will also be used to inform commissioners, broadcasters and regulators as they work towards finding legislative solutions to secure sustainable growth in the production sector.
The study was funded by Scottish Enterprise, Channel 4, Stirling Media Research Institute and the Research Centre.
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