Prompted by a call-to-arms from MTV Broadcast Services general manager and vice-president Peter Wright, 20 company managers interviewed by Broadcast concluded that the investigation, which will examine how broadcasters treat independents, should be expanded to include facilities. Wright said: 'Since budgets are being cut and margins squeezed we are seeing more old material being re-cut/regurgitated in order for broadcasters to contain their budgets. The result is that less money is spent with indies which has a knock-on effect on the production facilities business. The whole industry can suffer and the advisory panel must not look at indies in isolation.'
Graham Carr, who runs post facility Blue Turtle, supported the claim saying: 'The unfair deals that indies receive are passed directly on to those at the end of the food chain. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; budgets are tight and deals are offered on a take it or leave it basis, whether or not the budget justifies it. It is a buyers' market and the industry seems to be in terminal decline.'
Pepper managing director Patrick Holzen also backed the move, claiming television is 'having its darkest hour'. 'Budgets are squeezed to minimise the risk of new programmes,' he said. 'This leaves small budgets for post, for which hundreds of eager post houses aggressively compete and undercut each other, thus creating a vicious cycle which will eventually destroy the industry as we know it. I think it's an excellent thing that Tessa Jowell is investigating the industry. It's about time.'
The ITC's investigation will be assisted by a five-strong advisory panel which will use market data, evidence submitted to the joint scrutiny committee on the draft communications bill and key 'competition issues' in its considerations ( Broadcast, 4.10.02).