Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Bragg "angry" over limited tax breaks

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast May 10, 2012

Melvyn Bragg is unhappy that tax breaks are to be limited to high-end cinematic TV dramas and not available to smaller, less mainstream arts programming.

The longtime presenter and arts champion said the current plan would starve money from arts programmes and other smaller programmes that may have smaller visability but could have great potential.

Bragg said he agreed with actor and Sundance founder Robert Redford who also recently criticized government for overlooking “alternative” films in its tax break plans.

“I agree with Redford on this,” said Bragg. “There’s not many little grey cells ticking away down there (in government) There isn’t much thinking, paddling yes, but real thinking, no.”

Speaking at a BPG Press Guild lunch, Bragg said he was “angry” with the government about the limited subsidies, telling Broadcast after the lunch that government should be focusing on helping new talent to emerge.

“They should look at the roots. That’s where you need to pour the water. You don’t need to water the tops of the hydrangeas. You invest in the little companies and the alternative programmes.”

Bragg also lambasted Treasury plans to restrict tax relief for philanthropists, saying that “the silly buggering about with philanthropy” relief was a wrong step. “We have created over the last 15 years in this country, a triangle and it’s an equilateral triangle that no one else has got. It is government money, box office and philanthropy. All three of these come together and that is what really makes it go.”

He said that big donors to the arts were not doing it for the tax relief, they were doing it out of generosity, and if government changes the recipe there could be dire consequences.

Bragg’s landmark ITV programme The South Bank show is returning to the air on Sky Arts May 27 for a six- episode run, beginning with a profile of Nick Hytner, artistic director of The National Theatre.

Hytner has also criticized government’s plans to cap at 25% of their income anyone seeking to claim more than £50,000 of tax relief in one year. Hytner says that some £40 million already committed in gifts to the National Theatre are now under threat.

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