The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee's inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the creative industries has provided recommendations for the Welsh Government on how to support and protect a vital industry for Wales.
Hearing evidence from experts in the industry, the Committee heard that there is a real danger that skilled workers, vital to our creative industries, may be lost to the sector because they cannot access financial support offered by the UK Government. This is because the support is not suitable for freelance workers.
Pauline Burt from Ffilm Cymru, said of the film and television industry, "it's generally over 90% of our sector that is freelance and micros."
According to the Film and TV Charity's survey, 93% of industry freelancers across the UK are not working due to the crisis and 74% did not expect to receive any support from the UK Government. Based on a report by the Creative Industries Federation, there could be up to an estimated 16,000 job losses in Wales.
The announcement of an extra £59 million funding from the UK Government has been welcomed by the Committee. However, given the scale of the challenges facing the arts, cultural and heritage sectors, the additional funding will be spread very thinly.
The Committee is calling for a commitment that the total amount of funding announced will be spent on these sectors and for the Welsh Government to make a statement on their priorities for the funding and how it will be used to ensure no organisations are forced to close for good or make valued employees redundant.
Restarting Film and TV productions
The Committee heard of the difficulty in obtaining full insurance cover for film and television productions, risking Wales' international reputation as a filming location. The outbreak has magnified the existing inequalities between companies with the financial clout of multinational producers such as Netflix and Amazon who can afford to carry the risk and smaller, domestic producers who currently cannot.
The Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to hold discussions with representatives of the insurance industry, public service broadcasters and independent production companies to increase the availability of full production insurance and hold discussions with the Treasury to facilitate guarantees for insurance providers.
Entertainment venues in Wales are desperate to reopen but the Committee heard that, as long as social distancing measures are in force, it would cost them more to be open than to be closed.
The extra staffing, additional cleaning and additional control measures make it difficult to get any return for music venues already operating at low margins of profitability. Combined with the difficulty of getting insurance for live music events, it puts the livelihood of smaller venues at risk.
The Committee wants the UK and Welsh Governments to intervene to help unlock the insurance markets to help restore confidence in the sector. There is a real appetite to return to live music events but it will take Government intervention to break the current deadlock which is making it unprofitable to hold them.
Public service broadcasters
Public service broadcasting is facing unprecedented challenges from the rise in subscription viewing on demand services and a reduction in income. For instance, ITV has seen their advertising revenue fall by 41% across the UK in April and the overall impact on BBC Cymru Wales is expected to be a reduction in its budget of £4.5 million. Public service broadcasters stressed that the pace of change has accelerated during the pandemic and called for 'urgent' intervention from government.
The Committee heard that this crisis has shown the value of public service broadcasters in Wales. They have provided resources needed for home education and ensured Welsh viewers continue to receive Wales-specific information about the virus.
The Committee agreed that it is vital that Welsh audiences continue to see their lives reflected on-screen and have access to accurate information about our devolved democracy and Welsh life more broadly, in both English and Welsh. The Committee wants the Welsh Government to respond to the Ofcom consultation on the future of public service broadcasting by underlining the importance of maintaining a distinct Welsh voice. The Committee stressed that the need for public service broadcasting has never been greater, nor more under threat.
Helen Mary Jones MS, Chair of the Senedd's Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee:
"Until the COVID-19 outbreak, creative industries have been thriving, they are a key part of our economy, providing skilled jobs and putting Wales firmly on the map around the world.
"We are fast running out of time if we are to stabilise and sustain our creative industries. Therefore, the Welsh Government should set out how it will prioritise the additional funding to ensure our arts, cultural and heritage organisations are not forced to close their doors for good or make valued employees redundant, as a matter of urgency.
"Public service broadcasting has been an essential component of our fight against COVID-19. Broadcasters have provided critical public health information, specific to Wales, education support for children as well as much-needed entertainment.
"We owe a lot to the existence of these broadcasters and to hear the financial challenges they are up against is concerning. Today we're calling on the Welsh and UK Governments to provide the financial support they need."