Julian Petley / “Cinema and State” / All Our Yesterdays / 1986

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, dir. Stanley Kubrick (1971).

Two areas of relationship between British cinema and the State: 1) economic protecting vs. American competition, 2) ideological/censorship.

AMERICAN COMPETITION. 1927 Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 introduced quotas for showing British films: 7.5% for distributors, 5% for exhibitors. By 1936, both quotes were up to 20%. Act lasted ten years, administered by Board of Trade. Rise of “quota quickies.” 1947, Chancellor Sir Hugh Dalton declared duty on all imported films, absorb 75 percent revenue. Motion Picture Export Association boycotted. 1948 duty withdrawn. Harold Wilson (later PM) appointed President of Board of Trade. Attempted to raise quote to 45%, then dropped to 40, then in 1950 to 30, til abolished in 1983. Established National Film Production Council to up efficiency. With Cinematograph Film Production (Special Loans) Act, Established National Film Finance Corporation, March 1949. Like a bank, £5 million revolving fund for British film producers. NFFC helped make over 750 films: The Third Man 1949, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Servant 1963, The Europeans 1979, Black Jack 1979, Babylon 1980, Gregory’s Girl 1981, Another Country 1984. 1957, Eady Levy, named for treasury official who devised scheme with WIlson. Entertainment Duty down, levy on individual ticket went to fund shared among British film producers in proportion to box office earnings. 1960, 70, saw subsequent Cinematograph Films Acts, increasing lending power of NFFC. By 1980, Conservative government in power. Lending power down. 1983, quota suspended. 1984 White Paper on industry published, led to abolition of NFFC, Eady Levy, and Cinematograph Films Council. Replaced by British Screen Finance Corp, consortium of Thorn-EMI, Rank, Channel 4, and British Videogram Association. £3 million annual budget, 1/2 paid by government. The present [1986] government –> free market; hostile to arts subsidies. Independent producers will suffer versus monopoly and American influence.

CENSORSHIP. No legal requirement in Britain for examination and cutting of films. No State film censorship in Britain. Cenematograph Act of 1909, councils could impose conditions, in “not unreasonable.” Faced with local censorship up, 1913 industry appointed its own censorship body. Dropped when Asquinth resigned as PM (PM 1908-1916). Late 60s, early 70s, more liberal regime at BBFC, and puritanical pressure groups (like Festival of Light) created local bans, films including The Devils, A Clockwork Orange, Last Tango in Paris. More recently, circa 1986, less censorship.


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