Backing creators and the creative industries

Calling for an environment that is conducive to (not prohibitive of) freelance working, freedom of movement, and certainty and stability.

The creative industries are and will be at the heart of this government’s work on industrial strategy. This is one of the major growth areas in the country. It is our soft power.

Karen Bradley Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport January 2017

Britain’s creative industries generate £84.1bn a year for the UK economy  and the creative economy employs one in every 11 working people. We are delighted that Government has identified the creative industries as one of five "world-leading sectors", but more must be done to support creators and sustain an environment where innovation and creativity can flourish.

UK published material, whether that be the latest fiction bestseller, our world renowned scientific journals or textbooks for the classroom, is sought after globally  British books are exported to every international market with particular growth in recent years in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and East and South Asia.

  • The UK book and learned journal publishing industry is worth £4.4 billion. 43% of that consists of exports.
  • Publishers’ export sales of books (physical and digital in 2015 were £1.42 billion with education, academic and ELT (English Language Teaching) publishing accounting for two thirds of this. 
  • Physical sales were £1.2bn. Digital sales were £218m. 
  • The UK is the largest exporter of physical books in the world.

UK publishing sets a benchmark for quality – it promotes a culture of excellence amongst academic research and acts as an inspiration for others to follow. By supporting publishing, there is a great opportunity for the UK to lead and join together its world-leading content industries with its tech know-how. At a time when the Government is looking to increase the number of businesses selling their wares overseas, they could do a lot worse than look to the success of the publishing industry as a model. But the UK government needs to ensure the framework is right to enable industry to maintain its top position.

What are we asking for?

Support for freelance workers

All policies must pay due attention to the needs of freelances and individual self-employed people. Authors tend to be self-employed. The level of self-employment in the UK increased from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4.8 million in 2017 and now accounts for around 15.1% of the workforce. Full-time and part-time workers each account for around half of the rise in the absolute number of self-employed workers, but the growth rate of the part-time mode has been much stronger. Part time self-employment grew by 88% between 2001 and 2015, compared to 25% for the full-time mode. As a result, part-time self-employment accounts for 1.2 percentage points of the 1.6 percentage point increase in the self-employment share of all employment between 2008 and 2015. The SoA calls for a number of changes to support lone and freelance workers.

All policies must pay due attention to the needs of freelances and individual self-employed people. Authors tend to be self-employed. The level of self-employment in the UK increased from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4.8 million in 2017 and now accounts for around 15.1% of the workforce. Full-time and part-time workers each account for around half of the rise in the absolute number of self-employed workers, but the growth rate of the part-time mode has been much stronger. Part time self-employment grew by 88% between 2001 and 2015, compared to 25% for the full-time mode. As a result, part-time self-employment accounts for 1.2 percentage points of the 1.6 percentage point increase in the self-employment share of all employment between 2008 and 2015. The SoA calls for a number of changes to support lone and freelance workers.

  • Current tax and benefit rules do not cater well with people who have portfolio careers, perhaps with a number of jobs as well as self-employment to sustain a creative career. See our Tax and Benefits campaign
  • Self-employed authors also suffer with lack of access to resources and training [link to training page and by lack of bargaining power leading to inequalities in the value chain. See our CREATOR campaign
  • Countering monopolies and unfair practices
  • We continue to raise concerns in relation to Amazon, Google and other multinationals when appropriate.

Certainty and stability

Authors and the UK publishing industry are vitally important to the UK, both in terms of revenues (both internal and export) and cultural significance. While UK books are exported to every region in the world, Europe remains a strong market. Physical sales to Europe in 2015 accounted for over 35% of total export revenues. The SoA believes that the economic and political uncertainty caused by the Brexit process is likely to have a very negative impact on investment in UK innovation for many years to come. We are concerned that there is no planning to replace and maintain our EU markets. The Government must take urgent steps to calm fears of investors. It is unlikely that exports to USA could ever replace our vital EU markets. 

We are positive that British creativity and culture will remain in demand; however economic uncertainty is damaging to investment in new projects and distribution opportunities for rights holders and their businesses. Furthermore, economic uncertainty tends to make businesses more conservative and less likely to invest in new talent and ideas, leading to a reduction in cultural diversity. This is extremely concerning, particularly if linked to a closing of our borders to vibrant talent from Europe. It is essential that UK Government and UK rightsholders continue to play an influential role in the process of formulating and then developing the proposals within the European Commission, Parliament and Council and that adjustments and amendments are made to those proposals in the next two years. 

We welcome the assurance that the Government is aware of the importance of the issues which the Digital Single Market proposals are attempting to address and remains committed to doing so whether or not the UK remains subject to EU regime as an outcome of Brexit negotiations. See our Copyright campaign.

We need good trade links with Europe and the rest of the world to maintain and expand our thriving export markets. The ‘cultural exception’ in the transatlantic negotiations over TTIP should recognise the cultural importance of literature and publishing. Government and publishers need to work together to ensure the ongoing international success of the UK publishing industry. We support the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Publishing group that:

  • The Government should keep barriers on trade with the EU at an absolute minimum and not to accept trade barriers on books and other publications (physical or digital) in exchange for lowering them on other goods.
  • Information is included about the success of the UK’s publishing and book industry as part of each and every trade mission.
  • The Government gives the clear message that copyright is not red tape.
  • Publishers, authors and government to work together to improve the copyright laws in other countries.
  • The ROI requirements for inclusion on trade missions are reviewed. Current requirements are not appropriate for publishing where lead-in times for deals are much longer.

Freedom of movement

Any industrial strategy depends on a free flow and sharing of ideas. We are concerned that our industries are being destabilised by Brexit negotiations which are giving no guarantees about free movement or even the narrower and vitally important issue of protection for EU nationals already here and UK nationals living abroad. Difficulties in obtaining visas or tax and other barriers, combined with the parochial impression of being out of Europe will create may make Britain a less attractive place for writers to visit or settle in. This is bad for innovation as our creative thinking can only be enriched by visitors and settlers from many other cultures and lands. And our own authors will suffer if they are unable to move freely in Europe- one only needs to look at the winners of the Ondaatje Prize.

Live performances are the bread and butter of many of the creative industries. Performers and technical crews from both the UK and mainland Europe are now able to travel freely within the Schengen area, meaning that touring in Europe can be carried out with relative ease. Although this is not as important for authors as in some other industries, many authors also obtain a significant part of their income from performing. The SoA’s membership includes many spoken word artists as well as presenters, teachers and experts. We would resist changes in immigration law introducing a visa/work permit system (as, for example, for touring to the USA), for anyone wishing to tour in Europe (and vice versa). This would inevitably increase the time and effort involved in organising a tour and will obviously increase costs. Tax laws could also have an impact on touring (for example if performers must file tax returns in the countries in which they tour). Authors are not often highly paid for appearances and tax formalities and visa difficulties can simply make such visits not worthwhile. This could have a knock-on negative effect on sales and exports of authors’ books. Until we have certainty on these issues authors and organisers are unable to forward plan- our members agree to festivals and appearances many months or years in advance and we are concerned that organisers are being forced to make more conservative decisions because of uncertainty.

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