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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 10:48 GMT

UK Politics: Talking Politics

Britain's creative industries booming

Chris Smith writes for News Online

Culture Secretary Chris Smith has claimed Britain's "pop" industries are booming - creating 50,000 jobs and generating 60bn of revenues last year alone.

A new report, drafted with the help of Richard Branson, says that the creative sector including pop music, fashion, film, computer software and advertising is outstripping traditional manufacturing industries but could grow even further.

Writing for BBC News Online, the Culture Secretary explains why these industries should be taken more seriously as wealth creators.

"Today, the government launched its "Creative Industries Mapping Document" - a look at parts of the economy that have, in the past, often failed to register as the serious industries they are.

They have a number of other features in common. They depend heavily on individual creative talent, their earning power is defined as much by the generation of rights and royalties as the production of commodities, and in most Britain is acknowledged as one of the world leaders.

They include music, design, software, publishing, fashion, architecture, film and television, crafts, the arts and antiques market.

Generating jobs

Together they generate revenues of almost 60bn a year and provide employment for well over 1m people. They are growing at something like 5% a year - generating jobs and new wealth a good deal faster than the economy as a whole.

[ image: Films like Trainspotting have paved the way for Britain's creative success]
Films like Trainspotting have paved the way for Britain's creative success
They cover areas of activity which in terms of the global economy are of rapidly growing significance - communications, leisure and entertainment.

All of which makes it all the more startling that this is really a "map" - it covers territory never systematically charted by government. The interactive leisure software, or computer games, industry, is approaching 1bn a year and employing nearly 30,000 worldwide.

It dwarfs the film industry in its earning power and in which, according to some industry estimates, British talent is responsible for creating some 40% of the commercially successful games worldwide.

The mapping document offers a broad definition of what the creative economy is, with analysis of a dozen specific industries: what they do, their turnover, export record, employment and structure.

It also seeks to identify some of the opportunities for growth and, as importantly, some of the barriers holding back business.

Missed opportunities

Part of the purpose of the exercise is to avoid another example of the familiar story of British creative talent - invented here, but commercially exploited somewhere else.

Skills shortages, lack of investment, missed export opportunities, ineffective protection of intellectual property rights have first to be identified properly before they can be addressed.

That is not in any way to assume that it is the government's job to solve everything but it is certainly a legitimate function of government to help shed light on the problems and then held to address them.

Traditionally, government has concentrated its sponsorship effort in industries such as agriculture, construction or motor manufacture.

But we have learnt the hard way that industries rise and fall. We cannot afford to ignore opportunities for growth in new industries.

Cultural change

In part, this means a cultural change for Whitehall. This is where the Creative Industries Taskforce come in. It brings together the key departments in government that can help - or hinder - the creative industries, with those at the sharp end: such people as Richard Branson, Gail Rebuck, chief executive of Random House UK, one of Britain's leading publishers, or Paul Smith, one of the country's most successful fashion designers.

The taskforce has identified many areas for action or further study, such as exports, intellectual property rights, skills and regulation.

The government will work in partnership with these industries to ensure their competitiveness and productivity. This does not mean handouts and subsidies.

It means knowing the industries concerned, listening to their concerns, and providing help from government as a whole.

The creative industries have moved from the fringes to the heart of the UK economy; a key economic driver, providing the jobs of the future and maintaining our position in the world."

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