On the eve of regulatory change it is perhaps helpful to reflect on the impact of the 2003 Communications Act and to see how the new Act could help to build upon the tremendous gains of the last few years.
Having had a range of conversations over the last few months one thing is clear: no one seriously disputes that, post the 2003 Act, the independent sector has been a massive success story and to undermine this sustained growth would be crazy. This time we’re not speculating whether producers can build businesses of scale once they own their rights – it has been done.
This is not to say that this period, up until the new Act, will be plain sailing – we should never be complacent. We now have a new set of ministers and a whole new wave of officials who weren’t around when the 2003 Act went through. We also have a government which has a core commitment to cutting regulation.
The key thing which Pact needs to do is tell the positive story of how the independent sector has changed dramatically (and grown significantly) in the last few years with the help of a supportive regulatory environment.
Clearly, not all regulation is bad. The regulation we currently enjoy is actually very good in that it creates growth and ensures that the market remains competitive. In other words it delivers exactly what the government wants UK businesses to achieve. The UK independent sector is now one of the fastest growing parts of the creative industries, competing successfully across the globe. Since 2003, the indie sector has grown by 40% and now employs more people than all of those employed in the broadcast divisions of the Public Service Broadcasters.
UK content is now a mainstay of many US schedules – a massive achievement in a few short years. Exports of UK content have doubled since 2003 and indies currently fund their programmes with around £200 million per year.
All of these factors have been possible because of gains from the 2003 Act. The message going forward is quite a simple one. We want to continue to grow and build businesses producing and exploiting world-beating content and we want to work with the government and others to achieve even greater success for our sector in future.
Debbie Manners is chair of Pact