The British Film Institute (BFI) has operated to promote moving image culture in Britain since its establishment in 1933. The BFI was set in place following a Report on the Commission on Educational and Cultural Films in the late 1920s. This background continues to be reflected in its broad aim to establish the importance of recognizing film as a constitutive element of the cultural heritage. The emphasis upon the cultural significance of film and television is set out in a Royal Charter, which states the BFI’s primary objective to nurture the understanding of film ‘as a record of contemporary life and manners, to foster study and appreciation of it from these points of view’.
   In practice, the BFI’s services towards the promotion and development of the moving image are extremely wide-ranging. The BFI’s complex on the South Bank combines the National Film Theatre (NFT), the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) and the administrative headquarters of the annual London Film Festival. It stands as a national centre for the appreciation of film and television in a cultural rather than commercial context.
   The National Film and Television Archive was founded in 1935 and holds almost 300,000 film and television titles from 1895 to the present day. This resource is further supported by the Library and Information Services Division, which boasts the world’s largest collection of documentation on film and television, with all material available for access through a national database (Source Information on Film and Television (SIFT)). The BFI’s Research and Education Division promotes media education through publishing, television production, the support of formal media education and the organization of events. These services take many forms, including the annual publication of the BFI Film and Television Handbook, the monthly publication of Sight and Sound magazine and the production of documentary television programmes (such as the Century of Cinema series).
   The BFI also promotes the development of contemporary British cinema culture by supporting the distribution and exhibition of under-repre-sented film genres through its association with thirty-five regional film theatres. In addition, it generates revenue for the production of innovative and otherwise commercially marginalized ventures.
   Half of the BFI’s funding comes from the government, with the rest from subscriptions from its 26,000 members, the provision of services, and sponsorship and donations. In recent years the BFI has been engaged in a political debate to ensure sufficient government funding to carry out its ‘BFI 2000’ programme, a strategy for its future survival. In July 1998 the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, announced a new Film Council, which will bring together the BFI, British Screen, the British Film Commission and the films lottery department of the Arts Council.
   See also: MOMI; NFT
   Further reading
    British Film Institute (1997) BFI Film and Television Handbook 1997, London: British Film Institute.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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