Three fortunates who did get a BFI Press Release.
Three fortunates who did get a BFI Press Release.

Life is getting more difficult for those of us who try to follow the Activities of the Board of Governors charged with supervising the work of the British Film Institute. It seems the only source of information these days is the Minutes of Governors meetings. The occasional Press Release offers extremely selective information. The Members Board at the National Film Theatre is either gone or fallen into disuse. And all that appears on the Web Pages are the Minutes and the occasional Press Release.

And the process is slow if not worse. The Minutes for the April meeting this year only made it onto the Web Pages in August. And now it has been pointed out to me that the minutes for February 2012 actually display the Minutes for February 2011. Apparently this was raised with the Governor Office some time ago but they have still not got round to correcting the error.

The minutes are not a completely satisfactory record. They do provide some useful information, as in this case;

Also noted were the interests of most Governors in different aspects of the film industry and various related parties. It was agreed that the nature of these interests was such that none of these Governors would be required to leave the room during the meeting.

So the Governors are able to ‘mark their own work’, something the establishment finds anathema when it involves students in the Education system.

These minutes also contain the Board’s decision regarding the sole remaining Representative of Members.

The Board welcomed Peter Kominsky who was appointed as a Member Governor on 27 January 2012.  The Chair noted that notwithstanding the fact that less than ten percent of BFI members participated in the election, the Governors had unanimously accepted his recommendation that Peter be appointed to the Board.

For an unexplained reason the Governors on this occasion decided to appoint regardless of their own ruling regarding the required percentage of the vote: but in 2012 they restricted Cy to a one-year term: and then in the next election they decided to implement that ruling. This is an unexplained anomaly. A further anomaly is the interpretation that the election for a new representative will now be in February 2015, regardless of the three year term actually running out this autumn.

As you are aware, Peter Kosminsky is the member Governor on the Board.  His term does not expire until February 2015.

It is difficult to believe that the Governors give much notice to the views of the members and users. There is no record of any discussion of the complaints from some members regarding the vacant Members’ Representative Post. My colleague Roy has commented elsewhere on the dominance on the Board of the metropolitan establishment. Apart from records of attendance it is a difficult to find out if the current representative Peter Kominsky contributes in any way to meetings. There is no record of him taking a stance on the question of the vacant Representative post, despite the diminution of democracy this involved. And whilst some of his predecessors did make an effort to report back to the electorate apparently he has failed to do this.

The Board Secretary advised that regarding any communications:

I have received a response from Mr Kosminsky.  He has requested that any issues are relayed through me. [i.e. the Board Secretary].

And regarding any report back to the electorate

To my knowledge Mr Kosminsky does not prepare reports of the type that you refer to.

Earlier this year the Department for Media, Culture and Sport held a Triennial Review of the BFI. The April meeting of the Board of Governors received an outline of the report’s conclusions.

Amanda Nevill thanked the Governors who had already met with the Review Team. The initial key findings were outlined and it was agreed that they were positive. The Review Team was still gathering evidence and would be meeting with the Challenge Panel on 18 June.

However Joe Public is still in the dark. For at least three months the Department’s Web Pages have promised that the finding will appear ‘soon’.

Department for Culture, Media & Sport –

We are analysing your feedback. Visit this page again soon to download the outcome to this public feedback.

I have sent the Department a number of emails enquiring about this, but I am still waiting for the information.

Still there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Since the election for a new Member representative will not be until 2015 there is time for the Board of Governors to organise an election both for the Regional Representative and for the vacant National Representative. Costs were one factor cited when the Governors discussed elections earlier. But presumably have two posts up for election rather than one should have minimal effect on the cost of the process.

My experience of the Board of Governors to date is that they display little interest in such representation. So it will require pressure in order to produce this. For what it is worth I have written to the Secretary of State at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport where the responsibility for the BFI and for the Governors resides. I think it is worth considering raising this issue, including having an election for both Members’ Representatives. The next meeting of the Board is on 24th September: presumably they should discuss the issue then.