AudioUK, the trade association for independent audio production companies, today welcomed the publication of the Digital Radio and Audio Review by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).
The Review was conducted during 2020 and 2021 and contains proposals to ensure the stability and growth of the UK radio and audio landscape, including making a number of key recommendations for the audio production sector.
The report praises the work of the Audio Content Fund in providing PSB to new audiences on commercial and community radio stations and supporting jobs and investment in the production sector. AudioUK has been working to secure the future of the Fund beyond its three year pilot period (due to end March 2022). The report recommends a continuation of public funding for PSB, with the finance available possibly rising from £1m to £2m.
The Review report also includes a recommendation to consider an Audio Production Tax Relief, a measure for which AudioUK has been making the case, including in its detailed report published in July this year. Such a measure would help the UK production sector take advantage of the growing international investment in podcasts and other digital audio formats.
Lastly there is also a positive recommendation for skills and training in audio, where the report recognises there is a gap in funding and recommend that ways are found to provide funding to support this going forward. The Audiotrain programme was originally set up with government funding and reinstatement of that funding would enable it to full meet the needs of a growing sector.
AudioUK supplied DCMS with information and its members took part in the consultation process around the document.
AudioUK Managing Director Chloe Straw said:
“We’ve been really pleased with the way DCMS has worked with us on this report in the relevant areas. Their willingness to make sure they really understand the sector, and the policies that could help it grow even faster, was very welcome. These recommendations are all, if implemented, going to bring real benefit to audio production in the UK at a time when the consumption of podcasts is growing at a fast rate, and the popularity of radio remains strong. We look forward to working with DCMS to make these recommendations a reality.”
QUOTES FROM THE REPORT
The Audio Content Fund
“The Audio Content Fund (ACF) has created new partnerships between commercial and community radio and the independent production sector. The first six rounds of the fund, plus additional COVID-19 and loneliness rounds, have resulted in 115 projects from 73 production companies, broadcast on 320 stations. A survey by the Audio Content Fund of the successful bidding companies produced figures showing that ACF projects had created or supported a total of 4,301 freelancer days plus 28 full-time jobs and 141 part-time jobs. 27 of the companies said that winning an ACF commission had assisted them to win additional work elsewhere. The benefits to audiences was also clear, as the ACF has provided them with a range of innovative and high-quality PSB programmes on their chosen stations.” (para 2.62 p39)
Recommendation: “The government to consider continuing to make funding available for public service audio content, subject to evidence of impact, and consider increasing the budget with a portion allocated to supporting opportunities for new and more diverse talent to get started in the industry.” (R.6, p48)
Audio Production Tax Relief
The DCMS report states: “There is potential to help support the growth of UK audio production, a sector which does not currently benefit from any support through tax reliefs…. AudioUK has recently submitted a report to DCMS and HM Treasury setting out a proposal for a new Audio Production Tax Relief (APTR),55 which sets out the case for its introduction and includes modelling to demonstrate that such a tax relief would result in a net gain to HM Treasury.” (para 2.66 p41)
Recommendation: “The government to consider the case for tax relief for investment in higher-end produced audio content (for example in genres such as drama, comedy, factual e.g. true crime, one-off live big scale events) – drawing on experience of the successful High End TV Scheme.” (R.7, p48)
Support for audio skills provision
“Industry should consider establishing a new Radio and Audio Skills initiative and explore a partnership with ScreenSkills to help showcase existing training initiatives and skills requirements, and develop a joined-up approach to skills needs and funding opportunities.” (R.9, p48)
Recommendation: “The government to work with industry to review skills funding for the audio sector in order to help develop and deliver high quality audio skills training for a new generation of talent.” (R.10, p48)
1. Audio Content Fund. The Audio Content Fund is a scheme to provide funding for the creation of original radio production in the UK. The fund is part of a pilot Contestable Fund, financed by the UK Government, to support the provision and plurality of public service content. The Fund is responsible for distributing a grant of up to £3 million which will be used by independent production companies to produce distinctive, public service radio content for broadcast on commercial and community radio. The fund aims to support programming that is traditionally more difficult to support on a commercial basis (such as documentaries, comedy, drama, events). It has received two additional tranches of government funding, to support the production of additional content during the pandemic and to tackle loneliness, of £400k and £300k respectively. Its three-year pilot period concludes at the end of March 2022 and the sector has been supporting its continuation. More at https://www.audiouk.org.uk/audio-production-companies-voice-support-for-continuation-of-audio-content-fund/
2. Audio Production Tax Relief. AudioUK published in July a detailed report on the Case for an Audio Production Tax Relief. This would help empower UK audio production companies, many of which are based outside the M25, to court inward investment to develop and expand audio content (e.g. audiobooks and podcast drama) for commercial exploitation in the domestic and global audio market. Such investment is growing rapidly internationally, with brands, broadcasters, digital platforms and producers themselves investing more in audio content. With the huge growth in digital audio formats we believe overseas government support for audio production will increase as more countries wake up to the opportunity. You can download this report here: https://www.audiouk.org.uk/new-audiouk-report-shows-an-audio-production-tax-relief-would-attract-increased-investment-and-benefit-the-uk-economy/
3 Skills provision. AudioUK’s Audiotrain was originally set up with government funding which has since not been available. The programme has continued but a new injection of funding would enable it to be scaled up and introduce regular courses. More on Audiotrain here: https://www.audiouk.org.uk/audiotrain/