UK’s Pact & Equity Urge Gov’t Intervention On AI

UK’s Pact & Equity Urge Gov’t Intervention On AI

The UK’s producer trade body and actors union have called on the government to rejoin the AI debate and consider legislation before it is too late.

AI is set to play a central role in the upcoming contract negotiations between Pact and Equity but John McVay, who runs the former, and Lynda Rooke, who is president of the latter, concurred on the need for government to protect the industry via legislation.

“They’ve kicked the can down the road [on AI],” McVay said of the government at today’s Creative Cities Convention. “There is case law established in America about AI copyright. On the one hand you’ve got the [UK] government saying ‘let’s wait and see’ but if you go further down the road then they will say ‘we don’t like it, it’s going to go more extreme’. And then they will chill investment.”

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McVay, whose body represents hundreds of TV and film indies, said tough AI legislation could differentiate the UK from the U.S. and Europe. Without it, he raised concerns that the government will stifle creativity.

“Selling IP is at the heart of our audiovisual economy and if that is damaged then my members don’t work, and writers and directors don’t get paid,” he added. “The whole economy collapses.”

Speaking from the audience, Equity’s Rooke said government intervention is required to provide “transparency, consent and remuneration.”

“The whole point [of data laws] is having the ability to withdraw consent and that is important,” she added. “People’s work is being hoovered up by data mining. They are unaware of it and it is really important we get this sorted.”

Talks between Pact and Equity will begin soon over a new set of contracts that will be heavily influenced by the SAG-AFTRA strikes. Deadline revealed in September that AI provisions are taking up much of the airtime in the current Equity-ITV negotiations, for example.

“Real appetite” for BBC AI

Alongside McVay was Fiona Campbell, the BBC’s head of youth audiences, who detailed the positives and pitfalls of the corporation’s entry into the AI space a few weeks after Director General Tim Davie revealed it has several pilots in place with big tech companies.

Campbell said there is “real appetite” from audiences for shows about how AI will impact their lives but data security and the fast-changing nature of the tech pose big questions.

“In my world, the speed at which the tools are emerging make it very hard to keep up,” she said.

She praised tools recently showcased by Paramount at SXSW that “built out the worlds” of SpongeBob SquarePants but warned creatives against using free tools, which “put your thing out there to the world and mean it won’t be your IP.”

The panel took place at the Creative Cities Convention in Bristol, where the likes of Netflix UK boss Anne Mensah and Channel 4 chief Alex Mahon are also speaking.