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‘Billy Elliot’ tops television movie ratings for 2003

The television premiere of ‘Billy Elliot’ on BBC1 was the most viewed film shown on terrestrial television last year, and three other recent UK-made features, including ‘The Full Monty’, made the top ten, the UK Film Council has announced.
The ratings success came despite only a tiny 2.8 per cent of the films shown on those channels being UK films less than eight years old, and backs up the findings of a new opinion poll, which found that 81% of the British public believe that television companies should support the British film industry by showing more new UK made films.
Despite such large public interest in and support for the showing of new UK films on television, a UK Film Council analysis of the schedules of BBC1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4 and five for 2003 found that although the number of films shown increased by 11 per cent to 2339, only 65 (2.8 per cent) of the films shown were recent UK feature films (less than eight years old).
The most popular film shown on UK television in 2003 was the National Lottery funded Billy Elliot, with 12.7 million viewers tuning in to its television premiere on BBC1 – more than 3 million more than it’s closest rival. ‘The World Is Not Enough’ ranked 6th with 7.8 million viewers, The Full Monty 8th with 7.6 million, and ‘Goldeneye’ 9th with 7.5 million.
Meanwhile, polling undertaken for the UK Film Council by tns revealed that more than three quarters (77%) of the population believe that British films are an important part of British heritage, with almost half (46%) strongly agreeing (whilst only 3% strongly disagree).
More than one third of respondents (36%) believe that there should be more films on television, far outweighing the number that feels there should be fewer (5%).
The Communications Act which came into force at the end of 2003 contains a clause which means that the commissioning, acquisition, and depiction of UK made films on television will for the first time be looked at by the UK’s new broadcasting watchdog Ofcom when considering whether terrestrial broadcasters are meeting their pubic service obligations.
Commenting on the figures the UK Film Council’s Chief Executive Officer John Woodward said: “The UK has some of the world’s finest film talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and as these figures show there is strong public support for showing more new UK films on the main five terrestrial channels.
“While the 2003 saw an increase in the number of recent UK films shown on the main five UK terrestrial channels, the fact that only 65 of the 2,339 films screened were UK films less than eight years old highlights the need for action to improve the involvement of broadcasters in our domestic film industry.
“Recently the UK has enjoyed a run of terrific successes with ‘Calendar Girls’, ‘Love Actually’, as well as Lottery-funded films such as ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and ‘28 Days Later’, but improving the poor record of UK broadcaster investment in the production and showing of new British films is a vital ingredient to building a sustainable UK film industry for the long-term.
“Improving the poor level of involvement would benefit our culture and our economy, and as these figures show, it is what viewers want to see.”
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