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James Murdoch Bristles But Never Falters In 2nd Appearance Before Parliament

By | Thursday November 10, 2011 @ 3:06am PST

Breaking News … Refresh for latest live-blogging from London …

UPDATE: James Murdoch confidently and steadfastly maintained that he has been cooperative and fully forthcoming about what he knew and did not know when he testified at his previous appearance before MPs. Facing hostile questioning and bristling at suggestions the business under his supervision was like the mafia, Murdoch cooly but aggressively continues to maintain he was never informed of the specific contents of a damning email about the News Of The World‘s level of involvement or that there was any evidence of widespread phone-hacking. In a stark “they said/he said” contradiction of the former executives’ assertions, he reiterated that former News International lawyer Tom Crone and News Of The World former editor Colin Myler never showed him or disclosed to him all the legal documents surrounding the phone-hacking scandal. When asked about Crone and Myler’s assertions that he was informed, Murdoch said, “It is inconsistent and not right.” Furthermore, when he took over News Corp’s UK businesses, Murdoch said outgoing executive Les Hinton never discussed phone hacking with him. Frustrated by Murdoch’s insistence that none of his subordinates ever disclosed to him the full amount of any evidence they appear to have supplied his inquisitors, Tom Watson, long the Murdochs’ toughest and most persistent critic, countered: “You must be the first Mafia boss in history not to know he was running a criminal enterprise.”

LIVE-BLOGGING 1:26 PM: Paul Farrelly … Read More »

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UK Govt Drawing Up Film Fund Shortlist

EXCLUSIVE: Ed Vaizey, the British culture minister, hosted a meeting at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport this morning to thrash out who should administer UK’s lottery film funding. He tells me that the government has drawn up a shortlist of 3 to 4 organisations which could run it after the UK Film Council is due to be shuttered in April 2012. Organisations in the running include the Arts Council of England, the British Film Institute, and technology fund NESTA. Vaizey  tells me that everybody was “on the same page” as to what should happen: he said those at the meeting agreed there shouldn’t just be one “gatekeeper” reflecting one person’s taste. But the question on every producer’s lips is which state organisation will run state film funding? Vaizey tells me the amount of lottery money available for all UK film activity will rise from $42 million this year to $47 million once the UKFC closes. The government plans to announce its thinking by end-of-November latest. Vaizey also tells me he wasn’t phased by the amount of hostility towards scrapping the UKFC. “No industry ever likes change,” he says. “Privately, a lot of people I’ve spoken to have been open to innovation than they let on in public.” Other organisations attending this morning’s meeting included the British Screen Advisory Council, Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, Film Distributors’ Association, Film London, … Read More »

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BLIMEY! British Government May Give $19M Lottery Cash To BBC Films And Film4

EXCLUSIVE: The UK government is considering handing over the £15 million of lottery film production cash, which the UK Film Council currently handles, to public broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4. Ed Vaizey, the government arts minister, has talked about splitting the UKFC’s £15 million of lottery funding only recently. He argues that both broadcasters both fund the same kind of films. One UKFC insider I spoke to today described this as an “appallingly dumb” idea. “It may have come up now they are desperately scrabbling around for something to do with film money,” this insider tells me.

Even if BBC Films and Film4 go with the plan – and both complain that they’ve long been starved of funds – what’s to stop Auntie BBC and Channel 4 from just cutting their annual budgets as a result? BBC Films currently receives £12 million a year, while Channel 4 has just had its budget increased to £10 million annually. Producers would also likely howl as it further reduces the number of gatekeepers from three to two.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport tells me nothing has been decided yet. A detailed implementation plan will be worked out over the summer. But DCMS is considering options to transfer these funds to other existing bodies. There’s been talk of the British Film Institute handling the lottery production cash through an arm’s length commercial body — much like the arrangement BBC has with BBC Worldwide. I’m … Read More »

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Filmmakers React With Shock & Dismay To Government Plan To Scrap UK Film Council

UPDATE: I’ve been told that the decision to get rid of UK Film Council was Ed Vaizey’s alone, and not, as has been posited, by his boss Jeremy Hunt having a gun pointed at his head. What the government ministers disagreed about was timing. Vaizey wanted to consult the industry as part of his summer film review. It was Hunt who forced through the scrapping.

Roger Michell, director of Notting Hill, has called British culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision “astonishing” and “catastrophic” without the merest hint of consultation with either the wider film industry of the UKFC itself. “The decision flies in the face of economic sense,” says Michell. Armando Iannucci, director of hit British comedy In the Loop, tweeted: “Mad move by macho numbercrunchers. It made UK a gargantuan load of money. They’re wangpots.” Fellow director Mike Leigh said he’s “reeling” from the shock, while Mike Figgis said the government doesn’t strike him as being people who understand the film business, or even the culture business.

Among name filmmakers, only Alex Cox (Repo Man) has welcomed its closure, calling it “very good news for anyone involved in independent film.” What’s startling is how much hatred there is for the Film Council out there on the message boards, despite columnists and opinion-formers all calling this a black day for the British film industry. Of course, the UKFC rejects 95% of people who apply for money so there’s bound to be bitterness. Rebecca … Read More »

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New Government Scraps UK Film Council; Reaction From Organisation Swift & Angry

EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE: John Woodward, CEO of the UK Film Council, has e-mailed staff telling them today’s government decision to abolish the government agency “has been imposed with no notice and no consultation… I think we can all agree that this is short-sighted and potentially very damaging, especially as there is at present no roadmap setting out where the UK Film Council’s responsibilities and funding will be placed in the future.”

The government intends to close the organisation completely down with its assets and its remaining operations transferred out by April 2012. The Conservatives have underlined their commitment to £15 million a year of lottery-funded film. The tax credit is also to be retained – at least for now. The question going forward is who will control that money pot. UKFC will be working with Culture Department officials over the summer on transferring power and assets.

Tim Bevan, chairman of the UKFC, also blasted today’s news calling it “a bad decision”. He said: “People will rightly look back on today’s announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the UK’s more successful growth industries, deserves better.”

Today’s announcement comes as 55 other culture department bodies are set to be merged, abolished or streamlined as part of the government’s cost-cutting drive. Department For Culture, Media and Sport secretary Jeremy Hunt gave an interview to the Independent newspaper over the weekend, apparently softening … Read More »

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