Arts and Culture — Question for Short Debate
Baroness Scott of Needham Market (Liberal Democrat)
I wish to speak about a sector in which the UK leads the world-the television industry, particularly our thriving independent production sector. Figures published last week show that the indie sector now generates revenue of around £2.4 billion. This continued growth is due in great part to the Communications Act 2003, which corrected market failures in commissioning and allowed producers to keep their own intellectual property.
The recession has had an impact-figures produced for the trade association PACT show that primary UK commissions are down and that profit margins have fallen. The only indies showing a growth in profitability are the mid-sized ones, and it is a reminder of the contribution to the SME sector-Channel 4 alone works with more than 420 suppliers.
The big success story is in the independent sector export market, which increased more than 15% last year. The UK is a major exporter of programmes. "Downton Abbey", for example, has been resold across the globe, while in many countries, inexplicably, Jeremy Clarkson is worshipped as a god. The creativity of the independent sector has made the UK the world leader in formats, so programmes such as "Come Dine with Me", "Who do You think You Are" and "Strictly Come Dancing" have been turned into local programmes across the globe. Channel 4, commissioning only from the independent sector, has supported films that have won 14 Oscars in the last six years-and who else would televise the Turner Prize?
Markets are well established in Europe and the English-speaking world, but there is huge potential for growth in the emerging markets. In Latin America last year, export sales rose by 16%. PACT is clear that there is much more scope for growth, so can I ask the Minister to use his best endeavours to speed up the co-production treaty with Brazil? The next communications Bill must maintain the strengths of the sector by protecting the copyright regime and focusing the terms of trade on maintaining growth and competition.
A contributor to the vibrancy of the sector has been the independent production quota and the out-of-London quotas, and these must be maintained. You only have to look at the new creative hubs in south Wales and Salford to see the impact that this can have. In Scotland, around 3,000 people are employed in the sector. What is the Government's view of granting STV Productions independent producer status, which would allow it to grow further and attain critical mass?
As my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter said, tax incentives for specific genres have a proven impact and need to be kept and, where effective, extended.
We can be rightly proud of the variety and quality of UK television and its contribution to our cultural life. Our responsibility in Parliament and in government is to work with the industry to maintain it.