Insurance Fears Return As Restart Scheme Winds Down – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The UK government is “monitoring what further action is needed” to help commercial insurers return to market and provide commercially viable rates when the £500M ($680M) Film & TV Production Restart Scheme ends on April 30.

A spokesman for the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) department told Deadline the government is keeping a close eye on how the situation plays out and Deadline understands an industry working group has been set up to support the Scheme’s closure, which will regularly review post-April progress.

The UK government is prepared to intervene if insurers fail to return at commercially viable rates, Deadline understands, while support will be provided during the transition period for the weeks after the Scheme ends.

Following the first lockdown when insurers first started refusing to insure shows for Covid cover, the Scheme was introduced in summer 2020 and has been widely recognized as helping get the British TV and film industries up and running again, industries that last year posted record spend of almost £6BN ($8.2BN). The Scheme, which pays out up to 20% of a show’s budget if it is delayed by Covid-19 and 70% if abandoned, had registered more than 1,000 productions by the end of December, supporting the likes of Peaky Blinders and Midsomer Murders.

The government’s position will reassure the likes of producer trade body Pact CEO John McVay, who had raised fears that insurers will be unlikely to insure shows in case of Covid-related shutdown beyond April 30, which means TV producers will have to push on and roll the cameras at their own risk. The scheme has already been extended three times.

“This is now down to the government and insurers,” McVay told Deadline, adding that he has previously urged the UK government’s Culture department to open up conversations with the big commercial insurance firms.

“We want the insurers to come back to market on this but they are still nervous. Everyone is navigating the next phase and it feels like a movable feast.”

John Barclay, Assistant General Secretary of UK actors union Equity, added: “The Restart Scheme has been a great success and it’s alarming that what comes after could be a problem.”

A spokesman for the DCMS said: “Our Film & TV Restart Scheme has helped our world-class screen industries continue to thrive in spite of the huge challenges posed by the pandemic.

“We have been clear that the scheme has been extended for the last time, however the government remains committed to supporting the ongoing growth of the sectors and will continue to monitor what further action is needed in discussions with insurers.”

Pregnancy premiums

Meanwhile, Equity is pushing the government to intervene on the specific issue of insurance premiums for pregnant actors, which can be extremely excessive and often lead to female talent failing to get work or choosing not to disclose their pregnancy.

The problem has worsened under Covid, added Barclay, speaking a few months after an investigation from UK TV trade mag Broadcast found there had been at least five examples in the past two years and actor Jade Anouka said she had been dropped from a show for such an incident.

“Pregnancy is often listed as an insurance exclusion next to ridiculous things like nuclear attacks,” explained Barclay. “Some of the premiums are just awful. Pregnancy isn’t an illness but the cost of getting this extra premium especially from eight to 22 weeks is astronomical.”

The union is pushing the government to act but Deadline understands it does not intend to intervene.

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