‘The Crown’ Producer Andy Harries Says UK At Risk Of Becoming “Service Industry” To Hollywood

Andy Harries, the influential producer behind The Crown, has said the UK is at risk of becoming a Hollywood “service industry” unless local storytelling is protected.

The Left Bank Pictures founder issued a rallying cry for British creativity during an emotional address at Thursday’s Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, where he was honored with a lifetime achievement prize.

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Addressing a room packed with UK television Illuminati, Harries asked: “Are we in danger of our business ending up as a first-class, top-end service industry to the U.S. at the expense of our own shows? Shows that reflect our own lives in the UK.”

More than 78% of the £4.2B ($5.3B) spent on UK film and TV production in 2023 was from inward investment, according to British Film Institute figures. Britain’s reliance on American projects was badly exposed during the 2023 strikes when high-end production virtually shut down.

Harries said he was anxious that British broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV, are “increasingly looking vulnerable” amid the rise of Netflix and Amazon. He praised Netflix’s commitment to the UK, but said it should not come at the expense of domestic players.

Harries argued that it was time the government stopped “chipping away” at the BBC. “How many British institutions do you want to take a wrecking ball to?” he asked. “The streamers need the competition. Our industry needs a healthy BBC. The BBC keeps us British, its role in our society is unique and unifying.”

Accepting the Harvey Lee Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting, Harries added that the recent 40% tax break for UK indie films should be extended to “specifically British” limited series.

He is the second veteran producer this week to call for an expansion of the tax breaks after Jane Tranter, co-founder of Doctor Who outfit Bad Wolf, said protection for “lower-cost shows” would be helpful. Both Left Bank and Bad Wolf are owned by Sony Pictures Television.

Harries heralded ITV series Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which became an enormous local hit in January after the Toby Jones vehicle brought to life a painful miscarriage of justice.

Harries said it was “touch and go” whether the series, picked up by PBS Masterpiece in the U.S., would ever be made and the cast took a pay cut to get production underway. “It shouldn’t be necessary to expect actors to take a pay cut to make stories that are important,” Harries exclaimed.

He added: “This country needs a TV industry, which remains distinctive, independent and competitive with U.S. global media companies. Let’s work together to find an inventive way to ensure that all our public broadcasters are continuing part of the national debate with their drama.”

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