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Posted on Tuesday, November 09, 2004 - 01:55 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

The Irish Times 11.08.2004

TG4 funding must double by 2008, say producers
Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

TG4's State funding must be doubled to €44 million by 2008, independent film production companies have told the Minister for Finance, Mr Cowen.

In a pre-Budget submission,Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) said TG4 is currently broadcasting a mere 3.2 hours of original Irish language programme every day, well below their 6-hour daily ideal.

The Galway-based television station's budget should rise next year to €30 million from €23.3 million this year, followed by further increases, if TG4 is to "live up to the remit that it was established to fulfil," the producers said.

Mr Malcolm Byrne, the director of SPI, said TG4 cannot afford to make the shift away from English-language dubbed film dependence to original Irish language material because of budget restrictions. He warned that "the Government needs to act now if they are to protect the State's investment in Irish language television production".

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland film production companies could soon undercut Republic-based companies with the help of UK grants.

Under the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, Northern filmmakers can qualify for grants and repayable loans for Irish language productions.

Without similar measures in the Republic, Mr Byrne said Northern companies "will forge ahead at the expense of production companies in the South," adding that the Government must ensure "there is a level playing field in this regard."

The Irish Film Board, which has "significantly" boosted domestic film making since 1993, must also be remembered in Mr Cowen's Budget, said Mr Byrne.

"The forthcoming budget offers the Government the chance to make a real difference to the film production industry in Ireland," he said, but warned that if the board does not secure an increase of "about €2 million a year," the Irish film industry will lose out.

He said it is already evident that the Government's decision last year to retain Section 481 tax relief investment has "been good for the industry and the economy". But the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism must "remain vigilant" so that Ireland does not become less attractive as a film location.

The cap on investments in feature films must be removed, or at least brought in line with the €30 million threshold applied in the UK, he urged.

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