Broadcasters agree Out of London definitions

Stephen Chapman's picture

BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have jointly agreed the definitions for “out of London” commissioning.

It’s in response to debates about whether the millions of pounds intended for productions outside of London were making it to the nations and regions - and whether it was creating a sustainable infrastructure outside of the capital.

Earlier this year, the Indie Club told the Edinburgh TV Festival that they wanted to improve the Made Outside London criteria and wanted to set up a working party to bring more productions to the nations and regions.

Each individual broadcaster has their own quotas and commitments to meet, as set out in their regulatory licenses.

The new joint guidance note is intended to define and clarify the broadcasters’ understanding of the Out of London definitions, which were originally published in 2010, in order to help their reporting next year and also for indies.

Ofcom’s Made Outside London Review Team is currently running a consultation across the industry to update these.

“We are all clear that the overarching principle must be that: Every production qualifying as ‘out of London’ should make a meaningful contribution to the ambition to support talent development and strengthen regional production in the UK. We hope this guidance contributes to a wider understanding of what that means in practice for companies making productions across the UK,” said the broadcasters in a joint statement.

The guidance from the channels covers a number of points, around paragraph 5 of the Ofcom definitions on regional production.

We’re launching in London

Prolific London goes live next month - join our mailing list here

In 5.1 (below) broadcasters have looked at the definition of a “substantive base,” “production spend” and “production talent.”

“The production company must have a substantive business and production based in the UK outside the M25. A base will be taken to be substantive if it is the usual place of employment of executives managing the regional business, of senior personnel involved in the production in question, and of senior personnel involved in seeking programme commission.”

They’ve agreed that in terms of “substantive base” an Out of London production must meet all 3 sub-criteria (executives managing the regional business; senior personnel involved in the production; and senior personnel seeking the commission). However the location where the idea originates and where it is executed can be different.

The location of the substantive base should be determined by postcode and the location of the parent company is irrelevant. That said:

“The requirement for senior personnel involved in the production in question to enable a base to be substantive, is sufficient to prevent group companies from ‘warehousing’ bases where there is no meaningful impact

Broadcasters also addressed the issue of offices set up specifically for the production, saying:

“It is entirely legitimate for a production company to establish a new base for the purposes of a specific commission, with a view to it remaining substantive after the production is finished. However, in the spirit of the definition, broadcasters need to differentiate between genuine long term intent to maintain a substantive base, versus a temporary production office. This should be done through conversations with production companies at the point of commission.”

It added that when it comes to defining an “executive” it’s someone senior enough to have a “material influence” in managing the regional business. That could be editorial, or commercial and may not be a role specific to the commission in question.

Senior personnel could be a series producer, producer, or director. It could also include a line producer, production executive or head of production.

The second point was in reference to production spend. The Ofcom definition states:

“at least 70% of the production budget (excluding the cost of on-screen talent, archive material, sports rights, competition prize-money and copyright costs) must be spent in the UK outside the M25”

Broadcasters agreed that this is “actual” rather than budgeted spend and that production fees would be excluded from the sums. Also excluded are goods sourced from outside the UK, onscreen talent, archive and filming outside the UK.

The third point is production talent, which is currently defined as:

“at least 50% of the production talent (i.e. not on-screen talent) by cost must have their usual place of employment in the UK outside the M25. Freelancers without a usual place of employment outside the M25 will nonetheless count for this purpose if they live outside the M25.”

The broadcasters say they interpret this as roles directly involved in the production of the programme. These should not include service roles.