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The Hustle

Welcome news that the hit drama series Hustle is coming to the West Midlands – but are we the only ones to wonder why one publicly funded body (Screen WM) is effectively subsidising another (the BBC)?

Screen WM has confirmed that its persuaded the show’s producers Kudos to relocate to Brum – and they’re currently mulling over our request to find out precisely how much taxpayers cash is being swallowed up in the process.

They’re not shy about proclaiming the benefits though; according to the screen agency's press release, Hustle will generate £1.2 million for the local economy, and create jobs for local crew members.

Having campaigned for the survival of drama production in the city, we’re delighted that the long-term situation for local telly is now far healthier than it has been for many years.

Screen WM's spokeswoman explains that the idea of underwriting costs of shows like Hustle and Survivors is to persuade other film companies that the region is an attractive place to do business. As a strategy, we can’t fault it.

It still begs the question of why Hustle, a programme which was commissioned by the Beeb, and which relies on its continued patronage for its survival, should receive additional feather-bedding from the public purse.

As taxpayers we are already paying for it to be made by the BBC – and now we’re paying for it a second time by underwriting Screen WM’s subsidy of the production company. “Double bubble” as they say in Westminster.

In the days when the BBC’s drama production was all handled in-house – and when it was recognised as a world leader – this wouldn’t have happened of course.

The Corporation allowed various regions to develop as centres of excellence and Birmingham had its own well-deserved reputation for making plays and series.

Now we’re having to pay twice for something which we once enjoyed as a right.



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