Laura Bessell-Martin COO Argonon talks Media City, being a panellist at Salford Media Fest 2013 and UK Tax Credits incentives for TV producers.

It was first time I had been to the Media City in Salford, Manchester. What an impressive place, set aside the quays it is an area bustling with production studios, shops and offices and coffee bars. Then slap bang in the middle of all of this broadcast activity is Salford University. It took me back to my student days – although the buildings were state of the art and the students were utilising various technological equipment.  This is where the 2013 Salford Media Festival was being held.  I was there to sit on a panel to discuss the new production tax credit, that came out in April 2013 and is helping UK producers of animation and high end television.  On the panel with me was Anna Mansi who is the Head of Certification from the BFI responsible for administering the tax credit programme and has been instrumental in its roll out. Also with me were Tony Collingwood and Robin Lyons who both own animation companies and have been working with PACT for a number of years to push the government to regulate to support the animation industry. They are pleased with the developments.  It was a lively informative debate. The production tax credits are making a massive difference to Tony Collingwood’s business. For Robin’s company Calon it is slightly too late as he pre-legislation, under increasing financial pressures, he moved his pre-production studios to Ireland to take advantage of the tax breaks there.  My view is that any tax incentive programme is good for the industry as a whole, it brings inwards investment and creates jobs, however for Argonon the entry level to these tax credits is too high to be of benefit to us at present. In an increasingly competitive global market we are increasingly reliant on other funding strategies to make programming. The primary broadcaster in many instances does not fully fund the production, historically this was common in animation and other high end programming, but is now becoming common in the factual documentaries arena.  This is leading to us increasingly looking at alternative jurisdictions where we can make our programmes as cost effectively as possible. Many countries offer tax credit incentives for production including France, Canada, US, Australia and South Africa.  It would be nice to see the entry level for tax credits reduced in the UK. We have an office in Vancouver and the tax programme in Canada is more evolved and is applicable for all labour costs. It is an attractive scheme and has been hugely beneficial to the Canadian economy.  Overall the panel agreed it was hugely beneficial for the UK economy it has provided the lifeline to UK animation production and is encouraging more ambitious high end production. However as Discovery are currently petitioning we would welcome the programme to go further to ensure that the UK remains a global competitor within the worldwide television market.