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Cabinet asked to back investment in TV and film industry

Published March 30, 2022 12.07pm

We are spearheading a bid for UK City of Culture status and look set to invest in order to help the TV and film industry grow across the region.

We are leading County Durham's bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025, which made a national shortlist of just four locations from the 20 initially in the running earlier this month.

We are now poised to join with other authorities in the region, the BBC and Northern Film + Media in a partnership which promises to deliver investment in the industry of more than £36m. Investing in the TV and film industry is seen by us as key to County Durham maintaining a vibrant and inclusive cultural offer; something we are looking to build on as we develops our Inclusive Economic Strategy.

A meeting of our Cabinet next week will also hear that the partnership will help realise plans within the UK City of Culture bid for the growth of the industry in County Durham. That bid already has support in the world of TV and film, with Mike Smith, chief executive of Uplands Television and producer of BBC One show The Great North Passion, and broadcaster and historian David Olusoga, having given their backing.

The meeting next Wednesday 6 April will hear that the partnership came about as a result  of the BBC's commitment to increasing production outside of London by 10 per cent by 2028 - the equivalent to £700m of expenditure. Through this strategy, the BBC is seeking to ensure increased representation of communities throughout the UK across all BBC platforms, and increase commissioning spend across the nations and regions.

Supporting growth of creative industries

Cabinet will be told how a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was developed between local authorities and combined authorities in the North East, including us; and the BBC.

The MoU established the North East Screen Industries Partnership (NESIP) to deliver a range of activity including production, and both business and skills development.

Through the partnership, the BBC will invest at least £25 million in programming in the North East over a five year period. The local and combined authorities will between them match this by putting £11.4m towards the development of the screen industries across the region.

Cabinet will hear that the anticipated impacts from NESIP will support the growth of creative industries in the region and the county, as well as enabling significant skills development and future employment.

Furthermore, the activity and development programme undertaken through the MoU will help make plans for the growth of the industry in County Durham, set out in the UK City of Culture bid, become a reality. The ambitious plans include:

  • Increasing the reach, profile and impact of the UK City of Culture programme with a focus on showcasing its ideas and outputs across existing broadcast platforms.
  • Brokering new opportunities for County Durham talent to work with broadcasters and independent producers; helping them to actively shape, participate and benefit from new commissions.
  • A substantial skills programme that supports jobs in the growing screen industries across the region.
  • Providing incentives and attracting financial and in-kind broadcast investment into the UK City of Culture programme.
  • Taking co-production rights in ambitious commissions, in order to promote and safeguard public access to commissioned content during and beyond 2025.

A report to the meeting sets out how previous UK Cities of Culture have all developed formal partnerships with the BBC and othher broadcasters.

Cabinet will be asked to agree a series of recommendations, including that an initial financial contribution of £158,481 be made.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, our Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: "This partnership with the BBC, other authorities in the region and Northern Film + Media is a crucial part of our UK City of Culture plans as well as our economic strategy.

"The partnership will help unlock the creative talent in our county and across the North East, offering opportunities for jobs and training as well as showcasing County Durham to the world on our screens.

"Growing our TV and film industry can only help with that and we very much look forward to what will be achieved through this partnership and hopefully being named UK City of Culture 2025 putting our place and people firmly in the spotlight."

UK City of Culture bid will enhance prospects and opportunities

Under NESIP, Northern Film + Media will be responsible for delivering the region's ambitions on production and skills growth.

Its chief executive Alison Gwynn said: "This is a pivotal time for the TV and film industry in the region. Durham County Council is part of the new North East Screen Industries Partnership which will help us attract more investment to create more jobs and make more programmes, showcasing North East talent and the region itself.

"We are delighted for our partners in County Durham. Durham's UK City of Culture bid is one step closer to achieving recognition and opportunities for the region and will only enhance the prospects and opportunities for our talented screen professionals."

We aim to build a powerful economy for County Durham under a strategy that is widely supported. The content of the Inclusive Economic Strategy is currently subject to consultation, with people able to have their say online at the Our Big Econ-versation website.