Report on the BFI Triennial Review

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After promising ‘soon’ for several months the Department for Culture, Media & Sport has finally posted the above on its Web Pages. But the BFI WebPages have not even noted this yet!

The BFI Governors [and managers] saw a preliminary report back in April. Now 122 pages are there for Joe Public to read. The report is thorough, though not always easy reading. It does supply an awful amount of information, including interesting details about the BFI and its work and background information.

My main concern in recent posts has been about the membership and the accountability of the Board of Governors. A summary reads:

5.10 The Review Team therefore concluded that the Royal Charter should be amended to give the Secretary of State power of appointment of the Chair and the non-executive Board members. The Review Team also noted that under Article 14 of the Royal Charter Members, Associate Members and Student Members have the right to put forward a list of individuals in order of preference which the Governing Body shall consider for appointment as a Governor, in a manner as determined by the Governing Body. No changes are proposed to this provision.

At different points in the document the references are either to ‘post’ or ‘post/s; Given that the Board of Governors will ‘determine’ this process, it sounds like there is going to be little change. Giving the Secretary of State the power to select and appoint Governors is likely to be a change for worse. Meanwhile there is also the recommendation that will increase ‘commercial’ interests, ‘diversity’ and regional representation. The latter two could be positive but the overriding concern is summed up:

One of the key recommendations made in this Review is the development of a Business Development Strategy, focused on establishing a new commercial model which will optimise the value of the BFI’s various assets, and identify new ways to increase income from private sources. Once established, this Strategy should help reduce dependency on Grant-in-Aid Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

The Review also recommends that the BFI conducts a cost benefit analysis of the BFI London Film Festival, setting out options for increasing sponsorship levels and for a new commercial model of delivery building on international best practice. Such a ‘commercial’ emphasis in unsurprising but does not bode well for the future.

There is detail about people who took the time to comment. The largest group were stakeholders – I had a moment of frisson as I imagined a sequence from an old Hammer movie. There were quite a number who completed the online comment form. No mention is made of the problems that people reported in either accessing or completing this.

There were four letters sent by the traditional Royal Mail, [one was mine]. All made comments in support of the Member Governors, but, judging by the report, without any effect.

There were two problematic omissions. The Report frequently mentions ‘regions’, which include Scotland and Wales [separate nations] and northern Ireland [occupied territory]. But there is no sign of any investigation into how effectively BFI resources are spread right across the British State. Something that I believe would demonstrate sizeable anomalies.

And the Report also referred to different media – film, television, video, online products – but again there does not seem to have been any investigation into the effectiveness of these areas. There is certainly no sign of any discussion of the different virtues of these.

I think it is a fairly typical product of the UK state systems. I certainly do not think there is going to be any improvement in the way that the BFI is accountable to ordinary film viewers who both contribute to its funding and use [as far as possible] its provision.

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