On the day the BBC Trust published the BBC Executive's strategic proposals for the corporation (which represent either a radical shake-up or mere window dressing, depending on who you believe), the UK Film Council published its annual overview of film on UK television.
To be strictly accurate, the stats cover only the five terrestrial channels and not those available for free or by subscription via cable, satellite or digital platforms.
Nonetheless, the picture is an interesting one - especially given its impeccable timing.
The UK Film Council report reveals a total of 2,218 films were shown on the five main network channels in 2009, much the same figure as in 2008. Channel 4 scheduled the most (561) and BBC1 brought up the rear with 338 (see Table 1 and Figure 1, courtesy of the UK Film Council).
Just over one fifth (22%) of the total were British films (the proportion stood at 23% in 2008), and BBC 2 led the way with almost one in three films (32%) originating in the UK. That at least squares with the BBC Executive's proposal for BBC Two to 'cement its role as the principal showcase for UK films in which BBC Films has invested.'
Recent UK titles (those released theatrically in the 8 years prior to TV broadcast) accounted for 7% of all films broadcast. The proportion of recent UK films shown on the main networks has increased over the last eight years, rising from 3% in 2002. According to the UK Film Council, this
'reflects the increase in the total number of films produced in the UK over the last decade and the shortened window between theatrical and free-to-air TV broadcast for films funded by BBC Films and Film Four.'
Curiously I couldn't find any substantive reference to BBC Films in the corporation's strategy proposals (other than that previously mentioned), so I assume funding for feature production will continue at the present level (£12 million per annum). But the proposals announced today do make other references to the BBC's approach to film in future.
For one thing, the Beeb intends to reduce spending on imported programmes and films 'by 20%, capping it thereafter at no more than 2.5p in every licence fee pound.' Does that mean studio-backed and distributed UK/US inward investment features (which qualify as culturally British for the tax credit) will be exempt? I guess it depends on the definition of an import.
The BBC is planning to spend the money thus saved by investing in 'new original British content to replace the acquired programmes and films from abroad which will be significantly cut back as part of this strategy.' So perhaps BBC Films will get a boost to its budget, after all...
The strategy proposals don't just apply to programming. Under these plans, the BBC web site is facing some judicious pruning. In fact whole branches will be lopped off, including the /filmfestival page which has not been updated since 2007. And the main /film page will be shorn of 'generic content', to include instead only content 'which has featured on BBC programmes or content to which the BBC has added distinctive editorial value.'
Quite what that means in practice is anybody's guess. But if you feel moved to plead the case for more (or less) of Mark Kermode et al on the box/radio/web you have until 25 May to submit a response to the BBC Trust's consultation.