Representation and the BFI Board of Governors

Who do they actually represent?

Who do they actually represent?

I have posted on this issue before. Currently the Board of Governors which overlooks the work of the British Film Institute should include two representatives elected by members of the BFI and regular subscribers to Sight & Sound. The latter addition presumably reflects the situation where bfi membership is only relevant to people who can easily and regularly access the South Bank in the metropolis. The Triennial Review last year by the Department for Sport, Art and Culture re-affirmed the point of having member’s representatives.

However, for a couple of years now one of the two posts has been vacant. The official explanation is that the election turnout failed to meet a requirement for a certain percentage of voters. Given that the only other group who suffer such a percentage rule are Trade Unions this looks like one of those establishment rules that favour the status quo. It is ironic that as travel and communications become easier the fences round elites become higher and more impenetrable.

This latter point would appear to apply to the sole remaining elected representative on the Board. This is the filmmaker Peter Kosminsky. However, the only way to contact him is through the Board Secretary and in three year tenure I believe we have not had a single report or response from his for the electors. I should add that the Board took a different tack regarding his election:

The Chair noted that notwithstanding the fact that less than ten percent of BFI members participated in the election, the Governors had unanimously accepted his recommendation that Peter be appointed to the Board.

[Minutes February 2012].

It would be interesting to have the Chair provide an explanation for this.

Now it seems that the BFI establishment are trying to cement this unsatisfactory situation. The election for a Regional Representative was held in the autumn three years ago. When I inquired last autumn when we would hear about an election I was advised by the secretary that the election would be at the beginning of 2015, the date when Kosminsky first attended a Board Meeting. This sleight of hand meant that he would supposedly be representing members after the expiry of his term of office.

However, it gets worse. There is no sign of any election in the offing. Repeated inquiries to the Board Secretary regarding this issue have gone unanswered. I don’t think that is an email problem: a contact has experienced the same problem.

Mark Newell has also raised the issue [so far also with a response] pointing out,

If Peter Kosminsky’s term has not been temporarily extended by the Board, members are now in the position of having no representation at all.

It is my strong impression that the current management are loathed to have their conduct of the BFI closely scrutinised by the hoi polloi. They certainly show no interest in correcting the current absence of proper representation. And given the Board membership is dominated by members of the metropolitan elite, they probably think the same way.

The electorate for these representatives appear to be quiescent. Apparently only four individuals contributed comments to the Triennial review. This is unsurprising. Presumably the bulk of people who take out BFI membership do so to access the Southbank and its facilities. The situation for S&S subscribers is probably similar. In fact we need a radical overhaul of membership and voting rights regarding the BFI. However, as is the case with most elites, it will require popular pressure to produce action. Any readers who agree with this could consider that. I am writing to the Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding this issue. However I am not holding my breath. On the last occasion I did not receive even an acknowledgement.

Meanwhile Mark |Newell also pointed out a rather ominous entry in the last minutes to be published, September 2014:

A Challenge – How Much More Could We Generate?

3.5 The BFI was being challenged to reduce dependency on Grant in Aid (GiA) in the medium to long term. The Board noted that the Executive had begun meeting this challenge head on setting targets for net income growth 2020.

3.6 David Parkhill outlined that to get a better understanding of the BFI’s capacity and aptitude to increase income, four task groups had been created to examine four areas with potential for business growth in detail. The areas of potential business growth were discussed. The Board noted that the risks associated with each initiative had not yet been properly refined and that the figures specified remained headline at present.

 

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