Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wowser! Tax Credits are Go!

OK, OK, so not a go just yet. Today's budget announcement heralded, in fact, another year's work ahead of us before the Tax Credit will be fully introduced in April 2013. We were worried that it was going to take two years by which time a whole bunch more companies would have gone to the wall. A year is near enough for most to be able to hunker down and wait for the cavalry to arrive.

I have learnt so much about so many things by being part of the team pushing the Tax Credit agenda. Time for a list:

Miles Bullough - Movember
1)  Try not to launch a high profile media campaign during Movember. If you've never grown a moustache in your life it's not a good time to try, when you are on TV every other day. The worst thing though was the Spectator interview I did in Movember but which wasn't published until February. The reporter quite fairly called me on my stupid tache but failed to mention that he had talked to me three months before .... the Spectator didn't want anyone to think that it took them three months to get their act together.

2) This is tricky but try to make a statement that suggests a controversial headline but which doesn't go the whole way so that when sections of the media publish the controversial headline you can deny it but still get the media coverage. In our case the story that Aardman was to quit the UK which appeared on the BBC website and spread like wildfire, was a not very subtle distortion of a statement that I made that we would be outsourcing some of our work overseas if we didn't get a tax credit. Beautiful. I was able to deny the story while still getting it in front of everyone's face. I had plausible deniability.

I was surprised (but grateful) that it was the BBC website that took this approach to the story but they do have 'form' in this regard having been the source of the story that Aardman's studio had burnt down in 2005 when in fact it was a storage facility.

3)  While people like me blab away to the media, behind the scenes someone has to be doing some very hard work. Most of it was done by the indefatigable Oli Hyatt of Blue Zoo, without him the campaign would never have happened or succeeded. Aardman may have been the trump card but Oli played a difficult hand with great skill. Respect is due.

4)  Radio 4 has amazing reach and influence. The campaign took off in the media after the interview I gave to The World This Weekend on Radio 4. It was a great interview by Shaun Ley and most of the rest of the media coverage at that time ran on from that interview, or a strange version of it.

5) The press agencies sent under-qualified people to interview me; cameramen with a couple of questions emailed to them on their phones. The decline in quality of the news provided by agencies (as described in brilliant detail in Nick Davies' Flat Earth News) is a great worry - so many news organisations rely on agencies for their stories.

6) The FT is ace, they reported the story in depth and accurately, another good way of getting your story in front of the Treasury, for example.

7) Sky News appeared to be a serious news organisation committed to getting the story right, I had not expected this when they asked for an interview.

8)  Don't watch your TV interviews back especially if, like me, you are not a 'natural'. I hate seeing and hearing myself on TV or Radio but the job had to be done. By not watching any of it back I didn't get self conscious and worry about how I was coming across. People said I was OK, I chose to believe them without checking for myself.

9)  Journalists short of ideas and background information will often default to the adversarial approach .... using attack as the best form of covering up their lack of preparedness or skill.

10) There is just a tiny, tiny chance that the Chancellor gave UK animation producers a tax credit just so that he could make the Wallace and Gromit gag about the labour front bench.

11) There is no 11, I just think lists of 10 are lazy.

Update: 23rd March 2012

12) I feel the need to add another item to my list as I have been reminded, very good-naturedly, that the media hullaballoo actually began in our august trade mag, Broadcast. Back in October I gave a rushed interview to a reporter who, in my view, didn't report the substance of what I had said and instead cherry-picked a quote to prove a point she had to make about the film tax credit. I complained to the editor who was sympathetic. She offered me an opinion piece in the mag and made it clear that Broadcast was going to be a suporter of the campaign, which it really has been. I wrote the piece and it's one of the things that got Radio 4 (see item 4) interested. Again, it's not always a disaster being misquoted ...