Osborne’s favourable TV review

The Budget’s tax credit will make the UK an attractive destination for high-end TV production

When Wiggin was first asked by television company HBO to explore the possibility of a UK tax credit for high-end drama last June, it seemed that all the odds were against us. In the current economic climate, the Government was surely going to resist any new tax credit. Also, the television industry had a bad record, having been perceived to have abused the tax incentive regime a decade earlier by claiming tax relief on large amounts of low-cost programming.

It was therefore an extraordinary moment when, only nine months later, chancellor George Osborne announced a big tax incentive to support the TV industry in the Budget.

UK TV drama is renowned throughout the world, as illustrated by the huge international success of Downton Abbey. But Downton is an anomaly, because it was only made here for script reasons. Most higher budget culturally British TV programmes such as Strike Back, The Tudors and Birdsong, have been produced in countries such as Ireland or South Africa because of their tax incentives. Producers of these shows have all said they wanted to film in the UK, but it was simply uncommercial to do so.

The Government recognises that the existing film tax relief has been a success in bringing production into the UK, resulting in a highly skilled workforce and world-class facilities. It was only after meetings with government officials that it became clear that a restricted TV tax incentive, structured like the film incentive, might have a chance of success.

Working alongside media consultancy RSM Tenon, Wiggin conducted some research into the industry. It became clear that there were compelling arguments in favour of a TV tax incentive. In the report submitted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in January, we showed that a UK tax credit for scripted TV production with a minimum budget of £1m per hour would result in approximately £350m per year of additional Treasury revenue, which would boost the UK economy by around £1bn per year; and that the impact would be shown throughout all regions of the UK – the HBO mini-series Game Of Thrones, which has been filming in Northern Ireland as a result of a local government grant, has had a significant effect on the local economy and highlights the growth potential.

The initiative tied in perfectly with the Government’s growth agenda and its desire to encourage employment and training, improve infrastructure and boost inward investment in the creative industries.

Following the report, a ’TV Coalition’ was formed, comprising leading production companies, unions and trade bodies that backed our initiative and gave voice to the campaign.

The tax incentive announced in the Budget will have a transformative effect on this country’s TV industry and, when combined with the UK’s world-renowned skills and talent base, will make this one of the world’s most attractive destinations for high-end TV production.