Belfast Telegraph

Robinson eyes change in tax laws in bid to woo TV and Hollywood

By Margaret Canning

First Minister Peter Robinson is to lobby the UK government for a change in tax laws which could attract more high profile TV productions to Northern Ireland.

Following the success of HBO's Game of Thrones, he will ask that TV series enjoy the same tax breaks as films.

The DUP leader (right), who was interviewed by the Belfast Telegraph before a major speech to business lobby group CBI, said: "We were being lobbied very strongly on trying to get major TV series included in the assistance that is given to the film industry in terms of tax credits and that's something that we've already started to take up with the Government".

Film tax relief is aimed at film production companies making films which will be shown commercially in cinemas, are certified British or incur at least a quarter of its production expenditure on film-making in the UK. TV series are therefore exempt.

Mr Robinson said the success of HBO TV series Game of Thrones, which has been filmed in Northern Ireland, was a calling card in dealing with film and TV studios who may also consider the province as a location.

He said he met Warner Bros, Sony, Fox, Disney as well as HBO, during a recent investment mission to the US with then-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness before the latter announced his run for the Irish presidency.

Mr Robinson said other sides of the media industry were explored. "We were also dealing with the wider creative industries - sound effects, special effects, digital technology going down to gaming, mobile apps - all of those areas.

"A lot of stuff can be done in Northern Ireland and transferred to the US so there are opportunities for graduates here to be doing work for US companies."

Being able to cite Game of Thrones as an example of what has been filmed here was an advantage.

"Just as having the New York Stock Exchange come to Northern Ireland is a major brand and people start asking why did they go there, and that requires them to look and see and things can flow from that, equally when Game of Thrones or Universal come to Northern Ireland, people start looking at what Northern Ireland has to offer so it's been very welcome," he said.

While admitting that he had "picked up an episode or two" of the violent and occasionally raunchy series, he added: "You people(journalists) keep me too busy to watch much TV.

"Probably more importantly HBO are very excited by the response and they were referring to it as being one of the most successful TV series they've ever had."