Studios, Broadcasters Back Broad Coalition For Pandemic Insurance; Congressional Hearing Finally Set For Nov. 19

Jill Goldsmith

The MPAA, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Fox Corp, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS, the NAB and the NCTA have boarded a broad new coalition to tackle public-private business continuity insurance, the latest push to offset the financial devastation of COVID-19 and future pandemics.

The Business Continuity Coalition (BCC) represents two dozen industries from restaurants, hospitality and gaming to retail and real estate with over 50 million workers. Any blueprint it develops might be a reworking or replacement of PRIA, the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney in May.

Most insurance companies, which are crucial to a solution, do not support PRIA. Under it, no federal money would kick in until insurers’ losses exceed an aggregate $250 million trigger. After that, they would pay 5% of claims with the government backstopping the rest.

The BCC was formally unveiled this week but didn’t announce policy specifics. It will likely accelerate its outreach ahead of a key date: The House Committee on Financial Services said its Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance will hold a long-awaited and oft-postponed hearing on Nov. 19 called ‘Insuring against a Pandemic: Challenges and Solutions for Policyholders and Insurers’ that will hopefully get things rolling for real.

It’s been taking a long time to focus D.C.’s attention on a nation-wide business insurance crisis. But then again, Congress is still gridlocked over basic unemployment benefits.

“I wish I could tell you there’s a simple road of getting from here to there. But at least we’re moving forward,” Jean Prewitt, CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), told Deadline.

The BCC said it’s working with stakeholders on a public-private business interruption insurance program that, in the event of a government-ordered shutdown like COVID, will let employers keep payrolls and supply chains intact, limiting job losses and furloughs, reducing stress on the financial system and speeding economic recovery when government-imposed limitations are lifted.

Film and TV production, which has some unique coverage needs different from business interruption falls under a category of specialized products that will also be addressed. Producers use civil authority insurance – which kicked in when productions were told to shut down in March but is no longer available for pandemics, as well as insurance for cast and so-called imminent peril.

Patrick Kilcur, executive vice president, Motion Picture Association, and Prewitt called the BCC’s efforts vital.

Many independent films in particular can’t get bonded or financed without pandemic insurance.

“The American film, television, and streaming industry is a strong contributor to the U.S. economy, supporting more than 2.5 million jobs in all 50 states. COVID-19 has caused enormous uncertainties and challenges for our industry. We look forward to working with the BCC on a public-private insurance solution which will be essential as we navigate returning to production,” Kilcur said.

The BCC cited as guideposts the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, or TRIA, enacted after the 9/11 attacks, and the War Damage Corporation that was developed during World War II. PRIA, which remains a key first step, was also modeled on TRIA. The BCC will work with Maloney and other lawmakers as well as insurers, lenders and industry groups to help produce a viable bill.

The push for reliable pandemic insurance now and into the future goes hand-in-hand with other industry efforts to nudge politicians on shorter-term cash, aid, any form of temporary relief or some kind of a limited production insurance fund like one the U.K. set up. In July, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and IFTA penned a letter to Congress asking for relief. Sports leagues from the NFL, NACSAR and the PGA joined unions in penning a separate plea to the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House asking for help. And group of production companies, distributors, sales agents and completion bond guarantors created a task force, the American Coalition for Independent Content Production (ACICP), to press for government funding.

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