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Pact launches campaign for animation rights fund

Pact has launched a campaign to preserve the future of the UK's animation industry, by offering a viable model for the creation of an Animation Rights Fund to re-vitalise the sector.
The industry, which has produced such global, high-quality hits as ‘Bob The Builder’, ‘Noddy’, ‘Wallace & Gromit’ and the ‘World of Peter Rabbit & Friends’, has a world-class reputation. Despite this, it faces an uncertain future.
Total animation hours broadcast on the UK public service channels have increased by about 520 hours over the last 10 years, according to research from David Graham & Associates, but of this, UK animation only increased by 98 hours, while Canadian transmitted output increased from 53 hours to 205 hours. In 2003, UK animation accounted for just 20% of network animation transmission hours.
A separate survey of six commercial children's channels in the UK in 2003 paints a worse picture, suggesting UK animation accounts for just 14% of animation on these channels.
And statistics from industry publication Screen Digest indicates the UK now only produces about 50 hours a year of new and recommissioned animation, compared to 270 hours in France, 120 hours in Spain and 75 hours in Germany.
Several factors have brought extra pressure to bear on the UK animation sector:
Low licence fees paid by broadcasters; strong competition from US and Japanese suppliers, and competition from companies in Canada, Germany and France, which have access to public subsidy and tax breaks, means many projects created in the UK take so long to finance they never make it onto the screen, and are substituted instead by cartoons from overseas.
As a solution to this problem, Pact is campaigning for the creation of a publicly financed Animation Rights Fund that would initially be financed by public money, but would eventually become self-sustaining.
To assess the viability of such a fund, Pact contracted Optima (a joint company owned by Oliver & Ohlbaum and David Graham & Associates) to assess the nature of the problems facing the UK animation industry and to establish the likely impact of such a fund.
According to Optima, the tendency for UK broadcasters to substitute subsidised overseas animation for UK animation suggests a UK fund initially kick-started with Government finance might redress the balance in favour of UK animation and improve commercial returns and investment at minimal public expense.
An injection of government monies could boost the sector and grow the new annual UK TV animation slate by 160%.
An Animation Rights Fund would also serve to substantially increase the amount of new UK-based animation production, from 30 hours a year currently to 80 hours. According to Optima, this would happen as early as 2005 if the fund were set up soon.
Backed by the UK's main broadcasters, Pact is now seeking a decision by the Government, at the earliest opportunity, to provide the resources to set up such a fund.
John McVay, chief executive of Pact, said: "As a parent I am very concerned about the prospect of my three children, aged 3-8 years old, being fed a diet of non-UK animation that has few indigenous cultural reference points. We need to ensure our animation industry – which over the years has created many classics films – can survive and continue to create the classics of the future."
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