Creative industry handed 10-point manifesto

A ten-point plan to bolster the UK’s creative industry has been unveiled amid fears its leaders, start-ups and freelancers are “running out of time” before they are overrun by the competition.

Inside the plan, A Manifesto for the Creative Economy, the creative industry is said to employ 2.5m people - more than the UK’s showpiece industry of financial services, and accounts for about 10% of value added in the economy as a whole.

But without “strong action” from the coalition government to tackle “digital disruption” and “global competition”, the creative economy’s “success story could go the way of the [UK] automotive and computing industries - where an early lead was lost”, warned Nesta, the manifesto author.

Cue the group’s ten proposals, designed to take the UK’s creative economy out of the “risk” zone - and replace the “uncertainty” ministers have shown towards it with a “new policy agenda”.

Among the proposals is a plan to rebalance the nation’s copyright regime; a recommendation to form regional “creative clusters,” a relentless focus on the internet (under which every teenager should get the chance to create digitally), and beefed-up support for the UK’s “creative powerhouses,” such as the BBC.

Coordinated “new thinking” in education, arts funding, tax and access to finance is also urged, as is a new framework governing how policy-makers strategise about the UK’s creative and cultural output.

The first of the manifesto’s proposals is perhaps the simplest – for the government to adopt a “new definition of the creative industries and the wider creative economy”, partly to recognise the central role that digital technologies are taking.

But when it comes to framing policies that will impact the creative industry’s freelancers, it is also the government’s figures - not just its words - which apparently deserve a rethink.

“Policymakers should…bear in mind the limitations of official data sources where micro–businesses and freelancers are often unrepresented,” Nesta explained.

It added that official data may also “fail to capture the activities of emerging sectors,” so ministers should “explore other potential sources of data like social networking sites”.

Freelancers get a second mention in the 128-page manifesto report. But it is less positive, because Nesta believes such flexible, non-permanent workers can deter employers from investing in the skills and training of their in-house staff.

The group said: “High levels of uncertainty in creative markets, and the reliance on freelancers in some sectors, also reduce the incentives to invest heavily in employee[s'] continued professional development.”

Yet freelancers aren’t the only ones to blame. According to research cited in the manifesto, some employers pare back initiatives to keep their staff skills at the cutting-edge because of fears that, once trained, employees will “move on” with their newly acquired skills.

Warning against complacency, from ministers as well as employers, Nesta said: “The creative economy is one of the few industrial areas where the UK has a credible claim to be world–leading. This leadership position cannot be taken for granted,”

The group’s director of creative economy, Hasan Bakhshi added: “Young companies outside the UK have dominated internet markets and UK creative businesses have struggled to compete.

“There is still a vast opportunity but we need the right policy, regulatory and skills infrastructure in place to build on our world class position in the creative economy. It is not too late for the UK to get this right but we are running out of time.”


25th April 2013

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