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Digital Economy Minister's keynote on media and creative industries in the North

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey's keynote to the Nations & Regions Media Conference as part of the Salford International Media Festival.

I want to talk today about the future development of media and the creative industries in the nations and regions - and particularly here in the North of England.

It couldn’t be more appropriate to talk about this than here in Salford and Manchester.

It was at Manchester University in 1948 that engineers found a way to store memory using electrical charges – a technique inspired by wartime radar equipment. -That allowed them to build the first ever working general-purpose computer – the Manchester Small Scale Experimental Machine. So the North West has always been a place of invention and innovation - a Northern powerhouse in fact.

And today it has even greater potential.

If the North of England grew at the same rate that is forecast for the rest of the UK the prize would be huge – we could add £37 billion to the economy by the end of the next decade.

There are many good reasons why the tech and creative sectors should invest in the North:

  • over half a million (537,000) businesses have established themselves in the North;
  • the North would be the 21st largest economy in the world - bigger than Taiwan, Sweden and Denmark.

In terms of education and skills:

  • there are 23 universities in the Northern powerhouse area; and
  • the North has 7 of the UK’s 24 Russell Group Universities.

And in terms of transport:

  • the new vision for rail services across the North – TransNorth – is designed to radically improve journey times and frequencies between major cities to support a single economy through major investment in rail infrastructure;
  • in the last five years, the Government has also invested £685 million on major improvements to the Northern strategic road system, adding 114 miles to the network. It committed to £3 billion of road improvements across the North in the December 2014 Road Investment Strategy; and
  • the North also has an excellent network of regional airports, in particular the extensive scheduled intercontinental services from Manchester and Newcastle, as well as being a key hub for short-haul travel.

My Department has much to contribute to the development of a Northern powerhouse in terms of encouraging investment in digital innovation, culture, tourism and sport across the region.

The creative industries - and especially media and digital - are right at the heart of plans for the Northern Powerhouse.

The creative industries are driving forward the UK’s economic growth, outperforming just about every other sector of the economy.

Here in Salford and Manchester we are in Europe’s second largest creative and digital cluster, with developments such as Media City UK in Salford and the Sharps Project in Manchester.

Manchester Digital estimates that the sector accounts for nearly 46 thousand jobs in the area, generating around £2 billion per year.

The Local Enterprise Partnership’s Strategic Economic Plan sees the sector as one of those that offers the greatest growth potential and greatest competitive advantage.

It is not just the North West: Leeds City Region is also home to significant TV, radio, film, software and games clusters. And this year Leeds will benefit from superfast broadband.

I want to talk specifically about television production.

We know about the moves of BBC and ITV to the area.

Orange Tower is home to Shiver, the Factual arm of ITV studios. Shiver is one of the largest providers of factual entertainment in the UK.

The balance of network production has shifted since 2008: now nearly half of all UK production is outside London. And Northern England now accounts for around 25 per cent of output and more than 18 per cent of expenditure.

Some of this is driven by our public service broadcasters. Production spending by the public service broadcasting channels in the region has risen from 16 to 20 per cent.

This is reflected in spending in the other Home Nations too. PSB expenditure on productions in Scotland has more than doubled. The situation is similar in Wales. Meanwhile it has trebled in Northern Ireland.

And viewers are happier. Ofcom has found that viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were 20 percentage points more satisfied with public service broadcasting in their nation than last review in 2008.

Turning to the digital sector, we’re providing £11 million capital funding for three large new incubator facilities in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield city centres. To provide flexible workspace and business support for promising tech businesses.

We also fund Tech City UK, who are focused on accelerating the growth of digital businesses across the UK, at all stages of their development. This includes Tech North, whose Northern Stars competition will identify the most inspiring tech start-ups and talent in the North of England and give them a platform for growth.

It is important also to see this in an international context.

The Digital Single Market is a key priority for the UK. It offers huge potential for driving jobs and growth, and has a central role to play in safeguarding Europe’s future competitiveness.

The world is increasingly digital and borderless - and single market rules need to reflect this. At the same time, we must ensure that the copyright framework continues to provide strong protection and reward creativity, which is one of Europe’s most important assets. I know that all of you in this room are following developments closely. So am I.

Portability is an area where I think the UK can make real progress.

We want users to be able to access the content that they have a right to access at home when they travel abroad in the EU.

This means working with the industry on the rapid delivery of portability, so that it both works for business models and ensures a quality service for consumers.

The issue of cross-border access for those based abroad is trickier, and I am conscious that this is a particular concern for the audio-visual sector.

We are pressing for more detail about the Commission’s proposals, which will need to be evidence-based and respect the rights of businesses to tailor products to their markets.

Copyright must be effectively enforced across the EU so that it can fulfil its central purpose – to encourage and reward creativity. We support the Commission’s commitment to modernise Intellectual Property enforcement and its focus on commercial scale infringement - the “follow-the-money approach”.

The UK is a global leader in tackling issues of IP crime and protection.

The Government has taken a number of steps to strengthen its position, including funding for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit; reforms to the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court; and making it possible for rights-holders to have copyright infringing websites blocked by court orders.

The Creative Industries themselves also play a big part in ensuring the safety of copyright online.

CCUK is an industry-led coalition of the UK’s music and film industries and the four biggest UK Internet Service Providers. This collaborative effort is helping to combat the damage that piracy causes, whilst signposting consumers to legal sources of creative work.

The Government is pleased to be supporting this initiative and has pledged £3.6 million towards the educational campaign that will underpin the progress made by industry.

There are so many exciting opportunities and it’s vital that everyone shares in them. So I also want to talk about increasing opportunity and diversity for the nations and regions – and especially in media.

I have been concerned for while about the levels of on and off screen diversity. At a time of growth in the industry - following the recession – they were actually declining, particularly for BAME people and people with disabilities, who were below 6 per cent of all those employed in the industry.

I’m happy to say that we are now seeing real progress with the major broadcasters. BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky have all developed strong and targeted initiatives to increase the levels of diversity.

We have the Creative Diversity Network (CDN) too, which is now on a full-time professional footing with all the major broadcasters on board. CDN are building a monitoring system that will give us critical data on how well we are doing in increasing diversity, on and off screen.

We need to see more progress right across our creative industries where there is still under representation of BAME, disabled and LGBT people.

And we know that representation and portrayal is a continuing issue for audiences in the nations and regions - less than half in each of the non English nations say that they are satisfied by their representation so we need to see improvement there too.

So my department and I will continue to shine a spotlight on the industry. We will bring them together to set out the action they are taking. I’m planning another event in January in Birmingham to make this happen.

Thank you once again for this opportunity to set out the Government’s position.


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