EXCLUSIVE: The UK government is “monitoring what further action is needed” to help commercial insurers return to the market and provide commercially viable rates if the £500m ($680m) film and TV production restart scheme goes ahead . USD) ends on April 30th.
A spokesman for the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told Deadline the Government is closely monitoring how the situation is evolving and Deadline understands an industry working group has been set up to help finalize the programme what is done will regularly check progress after April.
The UK government stands ready to step in if insurers fail to return to economically viable rates, Deadline said, while support will be provided during the transition period for the weeks following the end of the scheme.
Following the initial lockdown, when insurers first refused to insure shows for Covid coverage, the scheme was launched in the summer of 2020 and has been widely credited for helping get Britain’s television and film industries back online, industries that have seen record spending over the past year of nearly £6bn ($8.2bn). The programme, which pays out 20% of a show’s budget if it’s delayed by Covid-19 and 70% if it’s cancelled, had registered more than 1,000 productions by the end of December and supported, among other things, more Peaky Blinders and Midsomer Murders.
The Government’s position will reassure people like John McVay, CEO of producer trade association Pact, who had expressed fears that in the event of a Covid-related shutdown, insurers would roll over the 30 cameras at their own risk. The program has already been extended three times.
“It’s now up to the government and insurers,” McVay told Deadline, adding that he had previously urged the UK government’s Department of Culture to start talks with the big commercial insurance companies.
“We would like insurers to come back into the market on this but they are still nervous. Everyone is navigating the next phase and it feels like a moving feast.”
John Barclay, deputy general secretary of UK Actors Union Equity, added: “The Restart program has been a huge success and it is alarming that what comes after could be a problem.”
A spokesperson for DCMS said: “Our film and television restart program has helped our world-class screen industry continue to thrive despite the tremendous challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We were aware that the program had been extended for the last time, but the Government remains committed to supporting the continued growth of the sectors and will continue to monitor in discussions with insurers what further action is needed.”
Meanwhile, Equity is urging the government to intervene on the specific issue of insurance premiums for pregnant actresses, which can be grossly inflated and often result in female talent not finding work or choosing not to disclose their pregnancy.
The problem has worsened amid Covid, Barclay added, speaking a few months after an investigation by Britain’s broadcast television magazine Broadcast found there had been at least five examples and actor Jade Anouka one incident in the past two years.
“Pregnancy is often listed as an insurance exclusion alongside ridiculous things like nuclear attacks,” Barclay explained. “Some of the bonuses are just terrible. Pregnancy is not a disease, but the cost of that extra premium, particularly from week eight through week 22, is astronomical.”
The union is urging the government to act, but Deadline understands it has no intention of intervening.