The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is conducting a review of the BFI, this happens every three years. There is a window for public comment and consultation, open until April 28th. I thought some readers might be interested in the comments that I have sent in.
To The Secretary of State
I am writing to you with comments for the Triennial Review being undertaken with regard to the British Film Institute. First of all I wanted to express concerns about the publicising of the review. I only found out about it when a colleague sent me a link to the Department WebPages. I looked on the BFI WebPages – there is information there but you don’t find it be entering ‘Triennial’ or ‘Review’ in the search function. You have to track it down.
Regarding the Board of Governors the BFI should now review as promised its new rules for the conduct of Member Governor Elections. These were introduced about three years ago and have resulted in three failed polls and finally, in 2013, in the temporary (or permanent?) removal of one of the two Member Governor posts. At the present time the Board has given no indication as to what will happen when the one remaining “regional” Member Governor’s term expires this September. Members are justifiably concerned that their views are neither heard nor properly represented.
Here too the BFI has not given enough attention to providing information. They regularly issue Press Releases when new Governors are appointed. There seem to have been no Press Releases about the removal of a Member Governor Post. And the only source which provides complete information on this are the Minutes. A notice posted on the WebPages does not clearly explain what the Governors decided
There are also serious problems regarding BFI membership. The benefits of membership have been steadily reduced over the years and now it is only relevant to people with easy access to London. Like other voters I am able to be involved as a subscriber to Sight & Sound. However, we are not able to access the members’ pages on the BFI Website: and the only alternative source of information is a notice board at the National Film Theatres: in other words you need to be in or visit London. The BFI needs a membership system that is relevant to people all over the UK, as it funding comes from all over the UK.
The Board of Governors seems to be almost entirely composed of people who live and work in London. And presumably this is true of most of the BFI staff. This seems to have a negative impact on the provision outside of London in the Regions. To give a specific example: when the Hitchcock silent films were restored with new prints the circular from the BFI advertised both 35 mm prints and DCPs. However, in West Yorkshire exhibitors who have attempted to screen 35mm rather than digital have not been able to obtain prints for this. Yet all nine of these new prints were shipped to Italy for a Festival there. The audience were told that the BFI ‘really wanted to screen the films on 35 mm at the Festival.’ They do not seem to have the same interest for the audiences whose taxation pays for most of the resources of the Institute and the Archives.
I think proper representation of members on the Board of Governors and a more representative membership would be the best way to address the concerns I have presented.
Of course, opinions about how effective such a consultation is will vary. However, given that the Management and Governors of the BFI display little interest in the views of the ordinary punters who cough up the cash, it is ‘worth a shout’.