SoA tables evidence to Commons committees on COVID-19 impact

The Society of Authors has submitted detailed written evidence to the House of Commons Select Committees for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The committees, composed of MPs of all parties, are taking evidence from individuals and organisations across the economy on the effects of COVID-19 on the creative industries (DCMS) and on businesses and workers (BEIS).

The SoA’s evidence, which you can read here (DCMS) and here (BEIS), sets out the steps needed to address the immediate financial challenges facing authors and creative professionals following the Government’s introduction of its financials support measures.

The creative industries, which contributed £111.7 billion in Gross Value Added to the economy in 2018 – up 7.4% on 2017 – has been particularly hard hit following the coronavirus outbreak. With median earnings of a full-time professional author now less than £11,000 a year, many authors and creatives now risk immediate financial difficulties following the Government’s introduction of thresholds required to access its Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (‘SEISS’), Job Retention Scheme (‘JRS’) and Universal Credit.

On 7 April, the SoA issued a detailed submission to HM Treasury expressing our difficulties with the Government’s SEISS and JRS measures, following our evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee on 31 March expressing our emerging concerns about the scheme designs.

Our concerns were subsequently borne out in a survey conducted between 7 and 14 April, which attracted 1,087 responses. Results from that survey can be found here.

Commenting on the committee reports, SoA Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said:

Authors are rightly concerned about supply difficulties and lost sales in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. Most cannot absorb these losses and, with many reliant on royalty income, they now also risk falling between gaps in Government support.

The SoA is also really concerned about maintaining a viable and diverse publishing industry following the crisis so, as well as pushing hard for the Government to do more to ease the financial burden on authors and creative freelancers, we are ask the DCMS and BEIS Select Committees to push for more effective support for smaller and independent bookshops as well as for publishing houses, many of which are falling between gaps in the Government’s suite of commercial policies.

We also have several post-Brexit policy concerns – from copyright, tax and freedom of movement – that also need to be addressed with greater urgency given the economic uncertainties surrounding the current public health crisis. We will continue to work with colleagues across the industry to ensure that publishing and the creative industries can get back on their feet quickly and continue to grow.