Caroline Norbury MBE in About

06/05/2015

BLOG: Policies of the Past: Creative Industries Mapping Document

It’s election time and politicians on all sides are out in force to win your vote in one of the most unpredictable political contests in a generation. As the debate intensifies, our chief executive Caroline Norbury has been taking a look back at some of the most significant policy interventions to have made a real difference to the UK’s creative industries over the last few decades.

So far in this series we’ve looked back at the establishment of Channel 4, the National Lottery and the Computer Literacy Project. In this fourth blog of the series, we go back to 1998 and the publication of the first creative industries mapping document.


The First Creative Industries Mapping Document

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently commented that: "Policy making is a very important intellectual business and it needs to be evidence based". 

It was this philosophy that informed the Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s first ever attempt to systematically define, map and value the UK’s creative industries back in 1998. 

As well as measuring the creative industries’ size and value, the department also tried to understand what sector specific challenges and opportunities existed to inform public policy and help promote future success. 

Creative England chairman, John Newbigin OBE, was a Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Culture, the Rt. Hon Chris Smith MP from 1997 to 1999, during which time he was closely involved in developing the UK government's first policies for the creative industries. We asked him a few questions about the development of the mapping document.


How important is it for government to measure, map and track the development of the creative industries over time?

It’s hugely important.  Knowledge is power.  Without accurate data and, more importantly, data-sets that are gathered regularly and consistently over time and so reveal long-term trends, governments are inventing policies in the dark, and investors find it much more difficult to plan intelligently.  It’s true to say that until definitions were hammered out and statistics were compiled, the creative industries did not really exist as far as government was concerned – they were seen as a patchwork of marginal activities and were not taken very seriously by the Treasury, or the business department.

Do you think perceptions of the creative industries changed since the first DCMS mapping document?

Yes, radically!  Of course there were arguments about the early definition and about the robustness of the figures but what really changed things was a second mapping a couple of years later that demonstrated that the creative sector was generating jobs at twice the rate of the rest of the economy – that’s when politicians and civil servants really sat up and took notice.

Thankfully, things have moved on significantly.   All the major parties now agree that the creative sector is a crucial part of our future economy.  There’s not a budget day or autumn statement that goes by without a raft of new measures announced to boost the creative sectors and that can only be a good thing. Sajid Javid MP, the current Culture Secretary, recently commented that the UK’s Creative Industries are “one of our most powerful tools in driving growth, outperforming all other sectors of industry and their contribution to the UK economy is evident to all”.

What do you think is the legacy of the first mapping document?

We called that first iteration a ‘mapping document’ because it was, literally, mapping the unknown.  A decade and a half later we know much more, government policy is much more engaged and that is reflected in a wide range of policies; in skills and education, in intellectual property rights and copyright, in the roll-out of broadband infrastructure, in allowing or encouraging new business models and finance models, in the way the UK promotes itself internationally, and, very importantly, in local and regional policies.  

Just in the last few years the government has added, or is adding to the long-standing tax reliefs for British films by introducing reliefs for video-games,  live theatre, music, children’s TV and top-end TV drama.  And the hard data is there to measure the impact of these initiatives, not just the impact they have on jobs and growth here in the UK but on the competitive performance of our creative industries worldwide.  Almost every government in the world has followed the UK’s lead in developing policies to support their creative sectors and that means our government has to do what it can to help keep the playing field level for UK companies.

Do you think existing DCMS classifications are a valid reflection of the creative industries today?

Hmm, I think the whole debate has moved on a long way since 1998.  Classification is still important but the emphasis is now much less on identifying specific industries as “creative” and much more about identifying the dynamics and parameters of a wider creative economy, recognising that the cross-overs between skills and disciplines are getting ever more complex.  

In the digital world, the dividing lines between different media have become so blurred that they’re almost meaningless. What we’re seeing is that the ideas, values and methodologies of creative businesses are being absorbed into every part of the 21st century global economy and society. 

I was recently at an international trade conference awash with people discussing the car industry as if it was all about engineering. In reality it’s a fashion industry, dominated by in-car entertainment and comfort systems.  Car designers are more likely to come from the Royal College of Art or the video-games world than from an engineering college. The skills, technologies and business practices of the creative industries are increasingly being adopted for use in other sectors like financial services, health, retail and publishing – there isn’t a sector unaffected by digital distribution, communications and production. Creative England’s joint investment fund with the NHS looking at games and software applications in the service of health and well-being is an obvious example. 

Having said that, there’s important work going on to re-order the international classification system for different industries and jobs so that all governments can more accurately measure the nature and extent of their creative economies, and so that when we compare our creative sector’s performance with that of other countries we’re genuinely comparing like with like. And it’s good that the UK is taking a leadership role in that work.

Key findings from the latest economic estimates:

  • The Creative Industries were worth £76.9 billion to the UK in 2013 and accounted for 5% of the economy.  
  • Between 2012-13, the value of the creative industries increased by 9.9% - more than three times that of the UK economy as a whole, and higher than any other industry. 
  • For the fourth year running, the Creative Industries value to the economy was higher than the year before, and is now at a record high. 
  • The Creative Industries accounted for 1.71m jobs in 2013, 5.6% of total UK jobs; and a 1.4% on the year before. 
  • The value of services exported by the Creative Industries was £17.3bn in 2012, 8.8% of total UK service exports  - an increase of 11.3% on the year before. This compares with an increase of 2.8% for total UK service exports.

Click here to see the most recent DCMS Creative Industries Economic Estimates in full.

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Follow John Newbigin on Twitter.

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