I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am pleased to introduce the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill 2018 to the House. The Bill was initiated in the Dáil on 6 November.
This is a short technical Bill which has the important objective of increasing the statutory limit on the cumulative capital outlay, commitments and liabilities that can be advanced to Screen Ireland, formerly known as the Irish Film Board, from €300 million to €500 million. As in the case of some statutory bodies which receive public funding, a limit was set by statute on such outlays when the Irish Film Board Act 1980 was passed. The limit must be reviewed by the Houses of the Oireachtas every five to six years. In this way, the Oireachtas can monitor cumulative capital funding to this statutory body each time the limit needs to be increased. Since the Irish Film Board Act 1980 was first passed, the funding limit has been adjusted upwards on five occasions. The Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act 2011 increased the limit to €300 million and it is now proposed to increase the limit to €500 million to allow Screen Ireland to continue to operate within an appropriate statutory limit. When the total 2018 capital allocation of €14.2 million is drawn down, it will reach €295.86 million and the limit permitted within the legislation will have almost been reached. The 2019 capital allocation would breach the statutory limit in the absence of new legislation. Accordingly, I am very keen to advance the process of amending the legislation to increase the aggregate figure further.
The proposal to increase the limit on advances is an enabling provision. The funding of Screen Ireland is, of course, subject to the normal Estimates procedures. Screen Ireland is the national development agency for Irish film making and the Irish film, television and animation industry and works within the framework of the Irish Film Board Acts 1980 to 2011. Its statutory remit is to assist and encourage the making of film in the State and the development of a film industry in Ireland. It supports these sectors by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film, television and animation projects. I am pleased to report that €20.04 million is to be allocated to Screen Ireland in budget 2019, an increase of €2 million on the figure for 2018. I am also glad to report that budget 2019 included an announcement that section 481, the Irish tax incentive for film, television and animation, had been extended to 2024. A time-limited regional uplift of 5% is also being introduced for the film tax relief.
Evidence of the necessity for this legislation is borne out by the activity of Screen Ireland in recent times. In the period since 2011, it has assisted the development of a total of 140 feature film projects, 120 documentaries and 30 animation projects. It has also supported over 140 projects for distribution and seen the development of 700 projects in the period. My Department recently commissioned international audiovisual consultants Olsberg-SPI with Nordicity to examine the sector. Its report entitled, Economic Analysis of the Audiovisual Sector in the Republic of Ireland, was published last June. The consultants measured the economic value of the audiovisual industry and made recommendations to support its future growth. The report showed that the audiovisual sector had contributed €1.05 billion to Ireland’s economy in 2016 and supported employment of 16,930 full-time equivalents, of whom 10,560 were in direct employment. The largest contribution to employment came from the film, television and animation sub-sector which generated 11,960 full-time equivalent jobs, of whom just over 7,000 were in direct employment, including cast and crew. The report confirms that the audiovisual sector supports thousands of jobs in Ireland and that there is significant potential for further growth in the years ahead.
Government investment is vital to build on the many success stories I have outlined. In April this year I was joined by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance in launching the Investing in Our Culture, Language and Heritage plan for the period 2018 to 2027. It is an overarching capital investment plan which proposes funding of €200 million for the audiovisual industry and media production through Screen Ireland in the next ten years. The subsequent audiovisual action plan which I launched last June as part of the Creative Ireland programme has the potential not only to increase the number of full-time industry employees to an estimated 24,000 but also to grow its gross value to nearly €1.4 billion. The plan is informed by the aforementioned Olsberg-SPI with Nordicity report which sets out a detailed economic analysis of the audiovisual sector and provides an invaluable framework for the growth of the industry in the coming years. A steering group has been set up which will prioritise measures, oversee implementation and monitor risks and report regularly to me as Minister.
Screen Ireland aims to support and promote Irish film, television and animation through fostering Irish artistic vision and our diverse creative and production talent, growing audiences and attracting film makers and investment into the country. Recent years were significant for Irish creative talent and the screen industries, not only for the commercial and critical plaudits of Irish film both at home and abroad but also its breakthrough onto the international stage. In terms of international recognition, the Irish film and screen industries have been recognised in the last decade, with 20 Academy Award nominations since 2008, with three wins; nine Golden Globe nominations since 2008, with one win; 17 Emmy Award nominations since 2008, with seven wins; and nine films at the Cannes Film Festival since 2007, with three wins. There has also been a consistent presence at major international festivals such as the Sundance, Berlinale, Tribeca and Toronto festivals. In the past few years Irish talent has been a consistent presence at the Academy Awards ceremony, with Nora Twomey’s debut animated feature, "The Breadwinner", leading the Irish charge at recent ceremonies, alongside other nominations of Irish talent, including Saoirse Ronan, Consolata Boyle, Martin McDonagh and Daniel Day-Lewis. The industry’s current flourishing is the result of years of investment in creative film making talent by Screen Ireland.
Screen Skills Ireland is a division of Screen Ireland and the national training and development resource specifically created for the film and television industry. Screen Skills Ireland is investing in people and skills and has developed and delivered over 60 courses and provided training for 1,558 individuals in 2017. Targeted and strategic training has been developed for the animation sector which is growing at an exponential rate. In addition, work based learning initiatives grew through participation in "Red Rock" and "Nightflyers", the VFX animation traineeship, the graduate traineeship programme and the new assistant traineeship in Kilkenny with Cartoon Saloon supported by SOLAS. It is fair to say Screen Ireland has undergone major change and development, both domestically and internationally, in recent years. Its vision is of a vibrant, creative and sustainable film, television and animation industry, with diverse voices, talent and opportunities. It speaks to and connects Irish film culture with audiences at home and abroad.
Screen Ireland is committed to addressing the issue of gender inequality in film making and screen content, in particular the roles of writers and directors. It will work towards achieving the target of 50:50 gender parity by 2020 in creative talent working in screen content. I am glad to report that there was a significant increase of 62% in the number of applications received, with female talent included, and an 82% increase in funding awards with female talent attached in 2018 when compared with the 2017 figures. Screen Ireland works with the industry towards ensuring dignity in the workplace in a number of ways across training and industry support. In response to reports of harassment in the audiovisual industry and in the light of the growing Me Too movement, Screen Ireland issued a statement highlighting its policy of zero tolerance towards the abuse of power within the workplace aimed at empowering industry practitioners to speak out against any abuse of power that they may experience within their own industry. In an increasingly competitive international environment I am glad to say Screen Ireland has been able to continue to effectively discharge its vital role of promoting the indigenous film industry and marketing Ireland as a location for international productions.
Our cultural and artistic identity as a nation gives us a competitive advantage that now more than ever must be exploited.
As I have stated, the benefits of high levels of film and television production in Ireland will include increased international investment in the economy, increased employment in the sector, positive spin-off effects on the promotion of Ireland as a tourist location, and the improvement of Ireland as an industrial location for all aspects of creative endeavours.
I appreciate the Deputies' co-operation in expediting the enactment of this short and technical but very important Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.