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Union persuades BBC to use Equity contracts in Republic of Ireland

9 May 2012

Equity has persuaded the BBC to use proper Equity/PACT contracts for productions taking place in the Republic of Ireland.

The BBC has commissioned UK-based independents to produce three large-budget programmes in the Irish Republic for transmission in the UK. The BBC was attracted to filming in the Republic because all three productions will get financial support from the Irish government through the Irish Film Board.  

Loving Miss Hatto, Vexed (starring Toby Stephens and Miranda Raison - pictured above left) and  Ripper Street are big budget TV projects that are expected to contribute around €13 to the Irish economy.

Equity had two concerns about these productions. The first was that the independent production company had announced that it would not use the Equity contract agreed with PACT (Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television) which is designed to meet the needs of independent productions. Pay and terms and conditions for the UK artists contracted would have been significantly worse under the contracts on offer.

Equity’s second concern was that the productions were being made outside of the UK and in particular were not being filmed in Northern Ireland.

Equity wrote to the BBC in strong terms. Assistant General Secretary Stephen Spence wrote: “It is of great concern that at a time when the BBC have confirmed their intention to increase production in the Nations they are in fact spending licence payers’ money commissioning UK independent producers to film in the Irish Republic for the UK network.

“It is galling for the talent in Northern Ireland to see the BBC bringing money to the Irish economy whilst they are reliant on a US production filming in Northern Ireland.

“Of equal  concern to Equity and our sister union Irish Equity is that we understand that non-standard non-industry contracts are being offered which I believe would run contrary to the BBC terms of trade.”

In its response the BBC showed come contrition and confirmed that proper contracts would be used. The BBC also confirmed its commitment to production in Northern Ireland pointing to Hidden and The Fall, currently in preparation.

The BBC also expressed a hope that TV production tax incentives similar to those available in Eire would be introduced for the UK. Just weeks afterwards the Chancellor announced that tax breaks for the video games, animation and high-end television industries, similar to those targeted at film production, will be introduced from April 2013.

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