UK Broadcasters And Indies In Last-Ditch Attempt To Save Insurance Backstop; Pact CEO Warns Some Shows Will Shut Down If Government Sticks To April 30 Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: A last-ditch attempt to convince the UK’s Culture Department (DCMS) to extend the £500M ($680M) insurance backstop beyond April 30 has been taking place behind the scenes this week, led by major broadcaster and indie groups, with Pact CEO John McVay warning productions may have to shut down when the backstop ends.

Deadline understands that several crisis meetings have been held in the past few days between industry stakeholders and government officials as the DCMS prepares to issue a press release imminently signalling the end of the backstop, which is formally called the Film & TV Production Restart Scheme.

Major broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV, along with key indie heads including Pact’s McVay, argue that commercial insurers are not ready to return to the market and insure shows for Covid cover and, therefore, losing the backstop will have a major impact on production.

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As Deadline revealed last month, the UK government has been “monitoring” what action will be needed to help commercial insurers return to market when the Scheme ends but attendees at the latest meeting yesterday said it is now accepted that these insurers won’t come back until at least September.

One source who was present described the situation as a “clusterfuck.”

“The UK government has its head in the sand,” they added. “They are saying we’re in a ‘Living with Covid’ phase but can’t accept there is complete failure in the production insurance market.”

Another source said broadcasters and indies are “desperately” trying to get the Scheme’s end delayed, although it has already been pushed back three times over the last 18 months.

Broadcasters and indies are therefore calling for a transition period for the Scheme between now and September but are fearing the worst.

A DCMS spokesman indicated to Deadline the government will not budge on the Scheme’s end date.

“We have been clear that the Scheme will not be extended, but we continue to support the ongoing growth of the sectors and will continue to monitor what further action is needed following discussions with insurers and the industry,” he said.

“Our Film and TV Production Restart Scheme has helped our world-class screen industries continue to thrive in spite of the huge challenges posed by the pandemic.”

McVay told Deadline there is a real risk that productions will have to shut down.

“This would be a bitter irony given how successful the Scheme has been at restarting production,” he added. “In order to avoid this scenario we encourage a transition during which sufficient capacity could be built to provide commercial insurance for any production that needs it.”

The Film & TV Production Restart Scheme has been helping the cameras roll since summer 2020, registering more than 1,100 productions at last count and supporting shows including Peaky Blinders and Midsomer Murders. It pays out 20% of a show’s budget if it is delayed by Covid-19 and 70% if abandoned, and has inspired similar measures in territories such as France.

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