Published on: 22 April 2015 in Longform
Manifesto analysis: what are the main political parties' plans for the creative industries?
Reading time: 5 minutes and 55 seconds
In the wake of last week's manifesto launches, Directors UK Head of Campaigns Ali Bailey has written a short summary of what the main political parties are saying they’ll do to support the creative industries:
With all the furore that accompanies each political party’s manifesto launch, what (if any) are the key messages for those working in the creative industries - particularly for those working in some of the strongest sectors within that: namely film, games and television?
While it’s unusual for political parties to give culture and the creative industries their own space in a manifesto, it’s easy to see why they’ve featured relatively strongly this time around. With the creative industries the undisputed work-horse of the UK economy – consistently delivering growth where other industries flounder – politicians are now clamouring to champion its cause.
The UK’s creative industries are now worth £76.9 billion per year to the UK economy – an all-time high that equates to £8.8m per hour, or £146,000 every single minute. It’s this massive contribution that means the creative industries will continue to play a key role in the next government’s long-term economic plan.
To put it into perspective:The creative industries grew almost 10% in 2013; three times that of the wider UK economy They also accounted for 1.7 million jobs in 2013, or 5.6% of all UK jobs And 2015 is already proving to be an even more successful year for UK creative output
The Labour manifesto is the most unabashed in asserting the importance of creativity and the creative industries, reflecting the tone and intent of Ed Miliband’s speech to the Creative Industries Federation in February. The manifesto makes specific pledges to rebalance arts funding across the country and to create a Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries.
Their key policy is still the universal entitlement to creative education in schools. This is reflected elsewhere in the manifesto by a stated desire to “help our children develop the creativity, self-awareness and emotional skills they need to get on in life”.
Commitments to creative education in schools are linked to their pledge to increase the number of apprenticeships in the creative industries. Mention is also made of plans to tackle unpaid internships and the socio-economic exclusion they can help perpetuate.
The Conservative manifesto contains a detailed section on ‘heritage and creativity’, which includes a number of unsurprising pledges designed to appeal to the Tory heartlands – such as protecting cathedrals and churches, and helping libraries. It’s arguable that Chancellor George Osborne has had more influence over its contents that the actual Secretary of State for Culture, Sajid Javid.
Pledges for capital funding to a raft of cultural projects in the North can be seen as an extension of plans for a Northern Powerhouse. The continued success of the tax credits programme has led to a firm recommitment to breaks for film, theatre, video games, animation and orchestras (with children’s television already agreed), and a promise to extend tax credits where possible.
The approach taken in the manifesto marks a distinct change in tone from that of previous Conservative manifestos, highlighting the fact that not only is the sector economically successful but it delivers social vibrancy, strengthens communities and the UK’s standing on the world stage.
The Liberal Democrats give relatively little space to culture and the creative industries in their manifesto, especially when compared to those from Labour and the Conservatives. This is at least partly because the Lib Dems have yet to have a minister in the Department of Media, Culture & Sport, but more importantly because they were holding most of their announcements back until the release of The Power of Creativity, a separate document outlining their strategy for the creative industries.
It’s no surprise that what made it into the manifesto is heavily business-focused, reflecting Vince Cable’s role at the Department for Business, Innovations & Skills and promoting the creative industries through his co-Chairmanship of the Creative Industries Council. Therefore, the Lib Dems pledge to continue their support for the Creative Industries Council, under their ‘Pride in Creativity’ label. They also promise to create “modern and flexible” patent, copyright and licensing rules, and help smaller creative businesses struggling to get finance.
The strategy document echoes this business-focused slant, promising to "put creative industries at the heart of plans for economic recovery" and - as with the Conservatives - praising the impact of the coalition's tax credit schemes. It also lays out plans to create a ministerial position with responsibility for both the creative industries and intellectual property, and affirms their commitment to an independent BBC (albeit with a license fee that doesn’t rise above inflation) and a publically-owned Channel 4.
As with Labour, the Liberal Democrats see creativity as an essential part of the education system and pledge to do more to boost the level of creative education in schools.
The Green Party manifesto only has a small section on 'Media, Sports and the Arts'. As well as echoing some of the same positions outlined above, including maintaining the BBC as the main public service broadcaster (although looking to have funding "guaranteed in real terms in statute to prevent government interference" rather than a license fee). There is also an increased emphasis on ethical concerns, such as supporting initiatives to make the arts accessible to all and tightening rules on cross-media ownership.
However, one potentially worrying aspect is their approach to intellectual property and copyright. The manifesto merely says that they will, "Make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible". However, another longer policy document on their party website states an intention to "introduce generally shorter copyright terms, with a usual maximum of 14 years". While copyright reform is necessary, and indeed sensible in certain industries such as medicine, a blanket term as short as 14 years would be crippling for many working in the creative industries.