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British media inquiries, White Papers and official reports:
Film and cinema

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Official British media reports index


Causes and Prevention of Blindness: Interim Report
Chairman: ? Roberts.
Published by the Ministry of Health, May 1921.
Outcome of an investigation, started in September 1920 following a complaint by the Actors' Association, into the use of unscreened arc lights in film studios that are reported to be causing eye problems for actors and crews.

Report of a Committee appointed by the Board of Trade to consider the position of British films
(Cmnd 5320)
Chairman: Lord Moyne
Published November 1936.
Remit: 'To consider the position of British films, having in mind the approaching expiry of the Cinematograph Films Act, 1927, and to advise whether, and if so what, measures are still required in the public interest to promote the production, renting and exhibition of such films.'

With the Cinematograph Films Act 1927 (which imposed the screen quota as a way of supporting indigenous production) coming towards the end of its 10-year life, the Moyne Committee was formally appointed on 25 March 1936 to consider what measures could be introduced to help British film production.
        It warned of the dangers of allowing growing foreign (ie, American) control of the British industry, notably exhibition, and recommended that financial institutions be encouraged to fund British film production on 'reasonable' terms. It recommended the extension of the quota provision for a further 10 years but condemned the practice of making 'quota quickies'—cheap and usually shoddy films made to satisfy the demand artificially created by the need to fulfill the quota. Blame for encouraging this practice was placed on the foreign (ie, American) distributors, who wanted to spend as little as possible on acquiring their quota of titles. As a deterrent it recommended a quality test—a cost of £2 per foot of finished film was proposed—that would also apply to films made in other parts of the Empire, which counted towards the quota.
        The administration of this test and other matters concerning the industry should be put under an impartial Films Commission appointed by the government.
        The report formed the basis of the Cinematograph Films Act 1938.
Cinematograph Films Act 1938
Moyne Committee report quotations

Proposals for Legislation on Cinematograph Films
(Cmnd 5529)
Published 1937.
A White Paper following from the Moyne Report.

Position of slow-burning films under the Cinematograph Act, 1909
Published by the Home Office April 1939.
Chairman: Lord Stonehaven
• Report of a Home Office committee set up in October 1938 to clarify the position of film on slow-burning acetate base ('safety film') compared with highly inflammable film on cellulose nitrate base. The committee recommended that acetate film should be excluded from the provisions of the 1909 Act.

Tendencies to Monopoly in the Cinematograph Film Industry
Report of a committee appointed by the Cinematograph Films Council
Published by Board of Trade July 1944.
Chairman: Albert Palache.
Other members: Sir Walter (later Lord) Citrine, Professor Arnold Plant. Philip Guedella was an original member but resigned for health reasons.
Remit: A CFC committee was appointed in December 1943 to advise on 'what further practical measures, if any, are necessary to check the development of monopoly in the film industry'.
    Smaller and independent production companies need to be maintained not only for their output of cheaper films but as a training ground for actors and technicians.
    Allocation of studio stage space should be regulated in war conditions to allow access for independents. {Half the capacity was own by one company and two-thirds was linked to the three major exhibition circuits.]
    Production finance is piecemeal, with no permanent capital allocated within the big combines and no specialised source of funding.
    Distributors (renters) tend to be in alignments with producers (including Americans) and to be increasing their share of box office receipts.
    Independent producers depend on having their films booked by only two people who control the three main circuits [described by Harold Wilson in 1949 as 'two irresponsible Eastern autocrats']
    The practice of 'barring' (geographical exclusivity for major exhibitors) is archaic and unduly restrictive.
    Growing dominance of American films during wartime has created a heavy burden of import costs. Film trade with the USA is not reciprocal.
    Board of Trade consent should be required for further acquisitions or expansion of exhibition circuits by the vertically integrated groups.
    To reduce the risk of American control, the combines should consider an arrangement of independent trustees. (The Economist and The Times had such an arrangement.)
    The Board of Trade should allocate studio space, giving priority to medium-budget films.
    Collectives of independent exhibitors should receive equal treatment to major circuits.
    A Film Finance Corporation should be established with powers to establish its own distribution organisation and to undertake overseas marketing.
    The Board of Trade should attempt to secure an adequate proportion of screen time for independent productions and of feature films for independent exhibitors.
    Conditional ('blind') booking should be banned.
    A British distribution organisation should be established in the USA.
    The British and American governments should jointly explore ways of increasing 'voluntary' exhibition of British films in the USA.

Recommendations of the Cinematograph Films Council for New Legislation on Cinematograph Films
Published 1947.

Report of the Committee on the British Film Institute
(Cmnd 7361)
Chairman: Sir Cyril J Radcliffe
Other members: Sir Ernest Pooley, Dilys Powell, Charles Robertson, Sir Stephen Tallents, Norman Wilson
Published March 1948.
Remit: A Committee set up in December 1947 by the Office of the Lord President of the Council 'to consider and report on any changes which may be desirable in the constitution and scope of the British Film Institute and the relationship which should exist between the Institute and other bodies concerned with the film as a cultural and education medium'.
Findings and recommendations: The proceeds of the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 are inadequate to support the work of the BFI, which needs a capital injection of £30,000 and an Exchequer grant, fixed every five years, to cover the £100,000 annual costs. A Minister should appoint individual BFI governors. The Scottish Film Council should also receive financial support.

Report of the Film Studio Committee
Published by the Board of Trade, October 1948.
Chairman: G H Gater
Other members: R S Edwards, S C Roberts
Remit: 'On the assumption that an additional film studio, capable of accommodating at least two productions simultaneously, is to be erected in Great Britain and that these additional facilities or such part of them as may be deemed appropriate are to be reserved for the use of independent producers whose needs are not otherwise adequately provided for, to consider how far it is necessary or desirable that Her Majesty's Government should own or control the management of the aforesaid studio.'
• Taking up one of the proposals of the Palache Report, a three-man committee of the Board of Trade saw potential pitfalls in government ownership of a studio facility for independent producers, but recommended that a consortium of producers should form a co-operative organisation to plan a production programme.

Film Production Costs.
Published by the Board of Trade, October 1949.
Chairman: G H Gater
Remit: 'To examine ways and means of reducing production costs.'
• The 13-man working party, first convened in February 1949, pointed to the dominance of British cinemas by American films, which left too little box office revenue for investment in British production. In evidence, different sectors of the industry had differing ideas of where the problems lay.
    The recommendations ranged from development of production programmes co-ordinated nationally to eliminating demarcation disputes to discouraging retakes. 

Distribution and Exhibition of Cinematograph Films: report of the Committee of Enquiry appointed by the President of the Board of Trade.
(Cmnd 7839)
Chairman: Arnold Plant
Report of the Committee of Enquiry, published November 1949.
Remit: 'To consider, against the background of the general economic situation in the film industry, the arrangements at present in operation for the distribution of films to exhibitors and their exhibition to the public in the commercial cinemas, and to make recommendations.'

Report of the Departmental Committee on Children and the Cinema 1948
(Cmnd 7945)
Chairman: Professor Kenneth Wheare
Published May 1950.
Remit: 'To consider and report upon
    (a) the effects of attendance at the cinema on children under the age of 16, with special reference to attendance at children's cinema clubs;
    (b) whether, in the light of these effects, any modification is desirable in the existing system of film classification, the existing position with regard to the admission of children to cinemas, or in the organisation, conduct and management of children's cinema clubs.'
• The Wheare Committee, set up in December 1947, worked for over two years, delivering a report in March 1950. It made an extensive investigation into the relationship between the cinema, juvenile crime, the education and welfare of young people and standards of public morality. [The Chairman was Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration at the University of Oxford.] At the time, 52 per cent of children went to the cinema weekly, 21 per cent more than once a week.
    The conclusion was that, although there was some general anxiety about the matter, there was little evidence that cinemagoing had a negative effect on children's behaviour. The only significant recommendation to be adopted was the introduction of the X certificate by the British Board of Film Censors.
History of British film and video censorship

Employment of children as film actors, in theatrical work and in ballet.
(Cmnd 8005)
Published August 1950
Chairman: D L Bateson
Remit: 'To consider under what safeguards as to health, welfare and education the employment of children as film actors could properly be allowed, and to review the existing provisions governing the employment of children in theatrical work and in ballet.'

Distribution and exhibition of cinematograph films
Published by the Board of Trade, May 1950
: Lord Drogheda
Remit: To work out specific practical proposals, for submission to The President of the Board of Trade, to give effect to the main objectives underlying the report's recommendations.'
• Trade members of the Cinematograph Films Council co nsidered practical ideas for implementation of the Plant Report of November 1949. They agreed that more competition is needed, but that free competition is unrealistic. Monopoly situations should be investigated but exhibition monopolies should not necessarily be broken up. Barring is an acceptable practice, supervised by a joint trade committee. Consideration should be given to the proposal that payment for film hire should be on a sliding scale. The idea of an independent tribunal to consider maximising producers' returns is rejected, as is competitive bidding for films but arrangements for outstanding films should be more flexible.
    George Elvin, general secretary of the technicians' trades union, the Association of Cinematograph Technicians (ACT), produced a minority report arguing for a nationalised distributor and cinema circuit of 300-400 screens acquired from existing circuits, raising of the exhibitor's screen quota for British films back to 45 per cent and a Board of Trade inquiry into the apportionment of box office revenue.

Memorandum of agreement between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the motion picture industry of the United States of America
(Cmnd 8113)
Agreed 1 October 1950
Presented to parliament December 1950
• There will be no increase in import duty on American films which will continue to be exported unabated. The amount of dollars that can be repatriated to the USA is specified.

Postponement and remission of payments due from the National Film Finance Corporation.

Structure and Trading Practices of the Film Industry: Recommendations of the Cinematograph Films Council
(Cmnd 2324)
Published 1964.

Report on the Supply of Films for Exhibition in Cinemas
HC 206
Monopolies Commission, 1966.
Chairman: Ashton Roskill
With Association British Picture Corporation and the Rank Organisation as the two principal British film producers and each controlling about one-third of the exhibition market, the Commission concludes that the resulting rigid industry structure is detrimental to the public interest. Recommendations are made for remedies.

Review of Films Legislation
(Cmnd 3584)
Report of the Cinematograph Films Council, published 1968.

The Future of the British Film Industry
(Cmnd 6372)
Chairman: John Terry
Report of the Prime Minister's Working Party, published 1976.
Prime minister Harold Wilson set up a working party in August 1975 to report on 'the requirements of a viable and prosperous British film industry over the next decade'. Chaired by the managing director of the National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC), it reported in January 1976, principally recommending the establishment of a British Film Authority to bring together the NFFC, British Film Fund Agency (administrator of the Eady Fund) and the film activities of the Departments of Education & Science and Trade.
        It also proposed creation of a new film fund with £5m interest free from public funds, a further £5m available in loans and £1m from the Eady Fund. The BBC would pay £250,000 for 10 projects a year and further sums for television screenings when the investment had been recovered. The five year voluntary 'window' for television screenings should be reduced to three years but made statutory.
        Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister on 5 April 1976, three months after the report was delivered. His successor, James Callaghan, appointed Wilson chairman of an Interim Action Committee on the future of the British film industry to follow up the proposals in the report.

Proposals for the Setting up of a British Film Authority
(Cmnd 7071)
Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry, 1978.

The Financing of the British Film Industry
(Cmnd 7597)
Second Report of the Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry, 1979.

Film industry: statistics, technological developments and cable television
(Cmnd 7855)
Third Report of the Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry, 1980.

Film and television co-operation
(Cmnd 8227)
Fourth report of the Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry, January 1981.

Distribution of films for exhibition in cinemas and by other means
(Cmnd 8530)
Fifth report of the Interim Action Committee on the Film Industry, January 1981.

Films. A Report on the Supply of Films for Exhibition in Cinemas
Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Trade, May 1983.
On a reference from the Director General of Fair Trading, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission concluded that a scale monopoly existed in respect of the film exhibition activities of EMI Cinemas and Rank Leisure (Odeon)—known in the business at the time as the 'duopoly'. A scale monopoly also existed in distribution in favour of Columbia-EMI-Warner and United International Pictures (UK) and that overall there was a 'complex monopoly' created by the combined activities of these distributors and exhibitors, and in particular the 'barring' arrangements, whereby certain cinemas gain exclusive territorial rights to screening films. This latter practice caused delays in other exhibitors gaining access to films and the MMC recommended that the practice should cease.

Film Policy
(Cmnd 9319)
White Paper, presented to Parliament 19 July 1984.
This was the document that sounded the death knell for the systems of state intervention that had been in place since 1927 in the case of the screen quota and 1948 in the case of the Eady levy. Both were proposed for abolition, along with the British Film Fund Agency, which administered the distribution of the money raised from the levy. The Cinematograph Films Council, founded under the 1938 Cinematograph Films Act (and succeeding an Advisory Committee set up by the previous 1927 Act) was to have its functions subsumed in the Interim Action Committee chaired by Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. The National Film Finance Corporation (NFFC) was to be replaced by a new commercial company, partly funded by the income from management of the NFFC's portfolio of rights but mainly by a consortium of film, television and video organisations. The paper did not mention that the effective system for collection of industry statistics would disappear as a result of the changes, although it was promised that the register of films maintained since 1 January 1928 would be preserved at the Public Records Office.
        The White Paper noted that April 1985-April 1986 had been designated 'the Year of the British Film' and promised £250,000 from public funds towards the 'celebration of Britain's film heritage ... [and] ... foretaste of the expanding role of film in national life and the British film industry's contribution to this'. It added: 'There will also be a special issue of postage stamps.' Interestingly, while noting the 'exciting opportunities in prospect' from video, direct broadcasting by satellite (DBS) and cable, the paper predicted that 'social habits have changed to such an extent that a return to annual admissions measured in the hundreds of millions is highly unlikely'. This forecast, admittedly made in the worst ever year for cinema admissions (53.8m), was to be proved wrong within seven years.

A Bigger Picture. The Report of the Film Policy Review Group
Department for Culture Media and Sport, March 1998.

Culture, Media and Sport—Sixth Report
Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 9 September 2003.
Chairman: Rt Hon Gerald Kaufmann
A review that sets out to answer the question 'Is there a British film industry?'
The report is available online from the United Kingdom Parliament website.

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Page updated 22 February 2004
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