The BBC has pledged to make a £500,000 ($612,000) donation to the COVID-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund set up by the BFI and the UK’s Film and TV Charity.
The BBC’s donation follows Netflix pledging £1M to the cause, which is aimed at providing short-term relief to active workers and freelancers who have been directly affected by the closure of productions across the UK.
The BBC has also committed a further £200,000 to the Film and TV Charity’s two-year mental health action plan, known as the Whole Picture Programme. The BBC said the majority of the total £700,000 donation will be provided by commercial arm, BBC Studios, with contributions from licence fee-funded commissioning teams.
BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said: “Freelancers are the lifeblood of our industry, keeping our shows creatively brilliant for all audiences. At times like these it is critical we stand by them. We are proud to contribute to The Film and TV Charity, to support our industry’s freelance community during these unprecedented times.”
BBC Studios CEO Tim Davie added: “This is a critical time for our industry, and we want to do all we can to support the talented and hard-working individuals who are so essential to our sector.”
The Film and TV Charity is currently working on the precise eligibility criteria and level of individual funding but the fund will be open to those working in production, distribution and exhibition. The group encourages people to sign up to the charity’s mailing list to learn more about the launch date.
Beyond the fund, the British government set out a financial rescue package for self-employed workers on Thursday. Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to pay freelancers a taxable grant worth 80% of their average month’s profits over the past three years. The measures cover anyone who makes the majority of profits from their freelance work, so long as the profits do not exceed £50,000 ($61,000).
Freelancers remain concerned about falling between the cracks of the scheme, however. Trade union Bectu said the government has not put a £50,000 cap on its scheme for employed workers, adding that many of its members “may just be a few hundred pounds” over the threshold.
The government grant for freelancers will also not be available until June. “We have been urging the Treasury to find a mechanism that will speed up the delivery of much-needed funds to people,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs. The union is also urging employers, such as production companies, to re-hire people on PAYE contracts so they can access the job retention scheme for employed workers.
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