After more than six months of lobbying by industry orgs Pact and The Children’s Media Foundation, George Osborne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced today that the British government “will introduce a new tax relief for children’s television programmes from April 2015.”
It was one sentence buried in the government’s expansive 108-page Autumn budgetary statement, but it is a significant gain for UK-based kids TV producers working in live action. While Osborne provided no further details about the scope or structure of this new tax relief scheme, Pact says it should fall in line with the current animation tax credit rate of 25% and estimates it could be worth as much as £3 million (US$4.7 million) annually to the public purse.
Pact’s claims are not without precedent. It states that the UK animation tax credit, implemented in April 2013, attracted £52 million (US$81.6 million) in production spend in its first year. Not surprisingly, the industry welcomes the move.
“The new incentive will benefit the audience and bring a much needed boost to the industry, leading to more programs being made in the UK and increasing the range and diversity of the offering for British children,” said The Children’s Media Foundation chair, Anna Home.
News of the tax credit comes just two days after several of the most significant players in the UK kids TV industry, including Russell T Davies, Michael Carrington, Oliver Hyatt, Nigel Pickard and Ann Wood, along with The CMF, issued an open letter to Osborne in support of the move.
“Children’s TV is much loved, but often undervalued,” the letter stated. It went on to urge the British government to enact a tax credit comparable to the one in place for animation to bolster the production of UK-produced kids dramas and documentaries “which have been in decline in recent years.”
While the UK kids TV industry has had global live-action hits like preschool-targeted Teletubbies, the live-action dramas, docs and factual entertainment often commissioned by British kidcasters don’t travel as well as UK-produced animated fare. But the industry orgs involved in lobbying for the new tax credit are betting it will spur more investment in live-action from local and global buyers, encourage more productions, and grow exports by fostering a more competitive domestic production market.