The BBC’s news site today carries a report highlighting what it portrays as the lack of financial return generated by several TV and film projects part-funded by the Welsh Government.
Maybe it’s me, but it seems odd for the Licence Fee funded BBC to feed the view that the only measure of success for publicly funded content is the commercial return it generates.
After all, much of its own content has no commercial value at all and bad decision making by its cadre of well paid commissioners has led it to amass its own pile of flops.
By investing in media productions and games, the Welsh Government is supporting jobs and boosting skills in sectors which are increasingly important to the UK economy. This is a good thing.
And the BBC knows that Wales has in the past done very well from tourism generated by the filming of Doctor Who and Torchwood in country.
So Welsh ministers are perfectly entitled to try boosting their local tourist economy and support jobs and skills by providing funding for projects if they think the mix of direct and indirect returns justifies that investment.
These are the same underlying justifications for the UK’s film, game and TV tax credit schemes.
As the article takes seven paragraphs to mention, many of the projects to receive funding are yet to be released. This includes the Doctor Who Infinity game for which the BBC and its partners received £317,000.
Whether the investments pay off is something we’ll only be able to tell in a few years time. To use only short term, direct commercial returns to question investment decisions is wrong.
Many of the BBC’s own projects would fare badly if measured against the benchmark it uses here.
On which note, the story is based on a Freedom of Information request submitted by BBC Wales so it’s perhaps worth noting that the BBC would never answer a similar FOI if you sent it one.
How much money it invests in specific shows is exempted from the UK’s FOI laws, as is its commercial subsidiary BBC Worldwide, which is the body used to sell its shows to consumers, international broadcasters, Netflix, UKTV, and other outlets.
The combined effect of these exemptions is to protect the BBC from the same level of scrutiny it’s now decided to subject the Welsh Government’s Media Investment Budget to.
Which does rather smack of double standards.
By the way – while not exceptional, the film ‘Take Down’ is nowhere near as bad as the BBC’s report makes it sound. It’s on Netflix UK if you want to give it a try.