Political parties laid bare their pre-election policy differences for the media sector at a parliamentary reception for the creative industries yesterday.

Sajid Javid, the Media Secretary, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary and Chris Bryant, the Shadow Minister for the Arts, spoke on behalf of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour respectively at a Create Industries Council event in the House of Commons.

The event was held to celebrate the achievements of the UK creative industries, which are worth £80bn to the UK economy and employ 1.7m people. Senior figures from across the creative industries attended, including BBC dg Tony Hall, C4 boss David Abraham, Warner Bros UK head Josh Berger and Facebook’s UK Nicola Mendelsohn.

The event also saw the launch of Hiive, a new professional social network for the creative industries, which has been driven by Creative Skillset.

Cable spoke first and began by praising the creative industries for their contribution to the UK economy. He said the creative industries represented 5% of the UK economy, but were growing three times faster than the rest of the economy. “This is an incredible success story,” said Cable.

He added that several key messages had emerged since the launch of Council’s Create UK strategy last summer. “On top of the list is finance, because there are some brilliant companies that cannot raise funding,” said Cable. He said the Business Bank, launched by the Coalition last year, had offered about a quarter of its start up loans to the creative industries. About 2000 creative industries companies had accessed loans or guarantees, Cable added.

Cable also said more work needed to be done to boost apprenticeships, protect IP and to boost exports.

He added that the Liberal Democrats would also prevent Channel 4 from being privatised. “What I and my party are committed to is making sure that Channel 4 isn’t offloaded to the private sector.”

Proposals to privatise C4 were reportedly drawn up last year by the Conservative-led departments in the Coalition, including the Treasury and DCMS, amid suggestions that it could raise over £1bn.

Labour’s Chris Bryant followed Cable to the platform, also pledging to “keep Channel 4 in public hands and not to sell it off”.

He added that Labour would back a “strong” BBC. “The single biggest investment that the government makes in the creative industries in this country is the licence fee. That is why Labour will keep the licence fee and the BBC strong.”

Bryant also praised the creative industries, noting that they accounted for 1 in 12 UK jobs and were the only sector in the economy to grow by 4% year on year. “That means creativity is not an optional add on to the British economy – it is the bedrock of our success.”

As a result, Bryant said that arts education at school should be at the heart of the UK’s economic strategy. “So let’s put a stop to dissing artistic education in schools…let’s say that Ofsted will only be able to call a school outstanding if it is outstanding at arts and cultural opportunities for every single child.”

Bryant also said the creative industries faced significant challenges. He called for more apprenticeships that were “not just about unpaid internships” and for the industry to embrace diversity. “It’s a sad reflection on the media that in the last five years the numbers of people from BAME communities working in the media has fallen not risen. That is a shocking indictment of the industry and we need to change that.”

Media Secretary Sajid Javid was the last to speak, and again he talked up the creative industries, pointing out that the sector is growing three times faster than the rest of the economy.

He picked out two reasons for the UK’s success in this area. The first reason, he said, was “the immense creative talent that exists in our country.” Citing success at the Oscars, Brits and Baftas and contributions from publishing, architecture, advertising and design, he added, “it is fair to say we have the most creative people on earth in our country.”

Secondly, Javid picked out the government’s support for the creative industries, in particular the boost from tax credits for sectors such as film, TV drama, animation, kids TV and theatres. “If you look at the transformation of the movie industry, just last year was a record year of investment – £1.5bn went into the industry in the UK.”

Javid also cited the government’s £1.7bn investment in broadband and its role in IP protection as two other key pillars of support.

Tellingly, however, he failed to mention whether the Conservatives were for or against the privatisation of Channel 4.

Photo credit: Pete Sherrard Photography.

Tim Dams

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