Legislation setting out RTÉ’s statutory obligations in respect to the commissioning of television and radio programmes from the independent production sector is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.
My Department supports the audiovisual industry through a number of initiatives including through the Audiovisual Action Plan. It also has a role in issuing certification for the Section 481 film tax credit. The relief is available in respect of qualifying films, to film producer companies on particular expenditure provided certain conditions, as laid out in statute and regulations, and as specified in the film certificate, are met. The relief is given at 32% of the lowest of eligible expenditure or 80% of the total cost of production of the film or €70,000,000. In addition, as part of the growth strategy for the sector, a new provision, the Regional Film Development Uplift was provided for in Finance Act 2018 and now offers an additional tax credit (in addition to the standard 32% tax credit) to be made available to productions being substantially undertaken in “assisted regions”. This will contribute to the strategic aims of building an industry in less economically advantaged areas. Independent producers of content can apply for Section 481 tax relief.
My Department also provides funding to Screen Ireland the development agency for the Irish film, television and animation industry, supports the development and production of original Irish drama, comedy, documentary and children’s animation for the independent production sector in Ireland. Recent years have seen increased Government support for the Irish audiovisual industry with the launch last year of the Audiovisual Action Plan that incorporates an amount of €200m for investment in audiovisual industry through Screen Ireland. In this year’s budget, I was pleased to secure an additional €1 million in funding for Screen Ireland for 2020, bringing its total allocation for the next year to €20.040m.
Screen Ireland supports writers, directors and production companies across the sector by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film, television and animation projects.
Television drama production is an area of particular focus for Screen Ireland and in 2019, it launched the TV Drama Production funding scheme which is aimed at driving the expansion of the indigenous TV drama production sector and provide opportunities for Irish talent to develop both creatively and professionally. New projects emerging from this fund include Normal People, The South Westerlies In addition, under this scheme, in conjunction with RTÉ, Screen Ireland funded the production of 4 television sitcom pilots, a scheme to support new Irish comedy. All four pilot episodes aired on RTÉ this Autumn and one will be selected to go to full series. Through Screen Skills Ireland, the agency supports and develops the skillset for the independent production sector through training initiatives to enhance the creative, technical and business skills for television creatives and crew. This includes a structured Multi-Camera Drama Directors Training scheme, in partnership with RTÉ, which took place in early 2019 as well as regular training courses for all areas of television production including: television production research, writing and structuring television drama and developing ideas for factual and entertainment programming.