The UK government has confirmed today (April 1) that its £500m Film and TV Production Restart Scheme will halt as planned at the end of this month.
In spite of lobbying from the independent sector for the scheme to be extended, a government spokesperson has confirmed that there is now no chance of this happening.
The Department For Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said in a statement: “Thanks to the government’s Living with Covid plan and the success of the vaccination programme, the risk to productions posed by coronavirus is greatly diminished and total production shutdowns are far less likely to occur. As a result, the government is now confident it no longer needs to intervene in this market. The government has always been clear the scheme will not be extended and it will close as planned later this year.”
The Scheme remains open to applications until April 30, 2022 and will provide cover until the end of June 2022.
It will therefore be left to commercial firms to provide cover for new film and TV projects.
With Covid cases again peaking (the Office for National Statistics revealed that 3.5 million people in England tested positive for Covid last week), there has been huge concern among independent producers that they will not be able to get insurance for their film and TV projects. Few commercial insurers are currently providing affordable cover against Covid. Industry observers have been predicting that some productions will now have to be postponed or abandoned.
Whatever the short-term pain caused by the end of the PRS, it is widely acknowledged that the scheme provided a huge boost to the independent industry during the pandemic, enabling independent production to continue.
High-profile TV series like Peaky Blinders, Killing Eve and Gangs Of London as well as films such as The Phantom Of The Open were among productions supported by the £500m scheme over the last two years.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries today hailed the scheme’s “vital role helping our world-beating screen industries continue to thrive despite the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic”, while chancellor Rishi Sunak claimed that the “success of our scheme means that commercial insurers can now work with the industry to provide cover, so the UK can keep producing the films and TV programmes we all love.”
Lloyd’s Market Association, British Insurance Brokers’ Association and London & International Insurance Brokers’ Association issued a joint statement revealing that brokers, underwriters and their clients are in “active discussion with the government as to how the commercial market could resume providing cover for this challenging risk.”
Overall, the scheme has supported 1,172 productions across 1588 locations including 158 locations in Scotland, 118 in Wales, 25 in Northern Ireland, 177 in the northwest of England and 137 in Yorkshire and the Humber. It has paid out £12m in claims to date. The DCMS predicts that by the scheme’s closure it will have covered losses totalling an estimated £53m.