Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA
The campaign for / against Scottish independence really heated up this week. The Yes campaign sought to capitalise on a poll which put them in the lead for the first time whilst No Thanks pointed to their lead in two further polls released on Thursday. Both campaigns are now looking towards ‘the only opinion poll that counts’ – the actual vote next Thursday.
Jean Claude Juncker finally announced the portfolios for hisnew Commission, making more radically changes than people had expected (or indeed desired). There are to be 7 super Commissioners, Vice-Presidents, in charge of ‘project teams’ and 20 Commissioners. How the Vice-Presidents will work with other Commissioners, many of whom have held very senior Government roles in their native countries, will be one to watch. The idea is that the Vice-Presidents are there to ensure the big picture objectives championed by Junker aren’t lost (one of those being the digital single market which is to be overseen by Andrus Ansip, the former prime minister of Estonia) amid infighting between Commissioners. How that will work in practice is far less clear. Further information on the new structure can be found here. Of most concern, however, are the changes Juncker has made to where copyright policy resides. Whereas responsibility for this, and its enforcement, previously lay with the Internal Market Directorate, these policy areas, along with the Creative Europe programme which sat within Education and Culture, has moved to the Digital Economy and Society Directorate, a rebranded DG Connect. A slight chink of light can be found in the appointment of Günther Oettinger, a German centre-right Commissioner, to lead this Directorate. While he previously served as Energy Commissioner his views on our issues are largely unknown, although we are hopeful they will be more favourable that those of his predecessor, Neelie Kroes, We do know, though, that Juncker has already earmarked copyright as a policy area requiring reform. In his appointment letter to Oettinger he writes: Copyright rules should be modernised, during the first part of this mandate, in the light of the digital revolution, new consumer behaviour and Europe’s cultural diversity. […]. With the outgoing Commission’s White Paper on Copyright now well and truly shelved, this statement, along with copyright policy’s move to Digital Economy and Society, is a matter of some concern. Our sister organisation in Brussels, the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), is preparing questions for the new Commissioners to be asked during their confirmation hearings with the European Parliament which we hope will provide more intelligence on Oettinger’s likely approach. To note, whilst the Parliament cannot veto individual Commissioners, they will vote on the overall Commission make-up (and can ultimately press the nuclear button and veto the whole Commission). Any Commissioner who does very badly in their hearings is likely to be replaced rather than Junker chance a full vote.
Other Commissioners of interest to publishers include:
· Competition: Margrethe Vestager (Denmark)
· Trade: Cecilia Malmström (Sweden)
· Research, Science and Innovation: Carlos Moedas (Portugal)
· Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship: Tibor Navracsics (Hungary)
· Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs: Elzbieta Bienkowska (Poland)
· Justice, consumers & Gender Equality: Vera Jourova (Czech Republic)
Along with the other officers of the Alliance for IP, The PA met with the new Minister for Intellectual Property. Baroness Neville-Rolfe was very positive on the importance of copyright and recognised the importance of the UK’s creative industries. She is particularly keen to see success in IP enforcement and has already visited the City of London’s Police and IP Crime Unit, with which she was very impressed. With regards to enforcement, the Minister was interested to hear what more could be done by others, such as search engines, to help protect IP online – an issue we will ensure stays on her agenda. It is also worth noting that Neville-Rolfe has been tasked by Vince Cable to co-ordinate the UK Government’s engagement with the EU across a range of issues. We also met this week with Christopher Lockwood, Deputy Head of the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, where we took the opportunity to brief him on our Manifesto for Publishing [to be formally launched next week]. Again, this was a very positive meeting with the manifesto and its recommendations being positively received.
Reading for Pleasure / Literacy
As noted in last week’s PA’s PA, the BIS Select Committee used International Literacy Day (8th September) to release a report recommending the Government launch a high-profile campaign to tackle the alarmingly low levels of adult literacy and numeracy in England. The Committee found that adults struggling most at English and maths are not getting the help and support needed. They heard that, while the Government pledges free training and tuition for any adult who wishes to study English and maths up to and including GCSE level, adults with the most limited English and maths skills were not aware of the support available. The Committee calls for a more joined-up Government approach to tackle the problem, improved funding arrangements and better assessment and support of the literacy and numeracy needs of unemployed people.
The call this week from the Save the Children-led “Read On. Get On.” coalition (of which The PA is a member) for a National Mission for Literacy was widely reported. Business leaders, MPs and education experts also led their names to the call for all children to leave primary school aged 11 reading well by 2025. Underpinning this call was research which indicated that GDP could be up to £32bn higher if all children were able to read well by the age of 11. The study found England had the strongest link between illiteracy and unemployment of any OECD country, with 45% of poor white British-born boys unable to read well when they left primary school. A petition has also been launched which can be found on The PA’s website. The PA also attended a Reading Agency reception in Number 11 Downing Street hosted by the Chancellor’s wife, Frances Osborne. The reception was to mark theannouncement of a new goal of 50,000 participants in 2015 for the Agency’s Six Book Challenge as part of its drive to improve adult literacy in the UK.
Backing up comments from his Secretary of State last week, Schools Minister Nick Gibb, speaking at the researchED conference, also publicly ruled outincluding a commitment in the Conservative manifesto to force schools to introduce setting. While he personally favoured setting be admitted that these issues have to be left to individual schools.
The Guardian reports on Tristram Hunt’s charge that DfE figures suggest academic standards are increasing at a slower rate in academies that have converted under new rules, compared with schools that changed their status under the last (Labour) government. Data shows the number of pupils achieving five GCSE A*-C grades, including English and maths, have increased between 2011-2013 by 5.3 points in sponsored academies, introduced by the last government. There has been an increase of just 1.3 points over the same period in converter academies, which do not need to have a sponsor following changes introduced by Michael Gove. Mr Hunt said: “The Tories are taking standards backwards, focusing obsessively on school structures at the expense of what matters most in our classrooms – the quality of teaching.”
The Times (£) reports on a study by Virgin Media Business that found that around 250 schools still do not have a computer, despite coding now being part of the national curriculum. The research also estimates that although the vast majority of teachers use digital technology, only one in seven is completely computer literate. “There seems to be a growing digital divide between the technology that is available in the classroom and teachers’ ability to effectively use it,” said Mario DiMascio, executive sales director at Virgin Media Business.
An online English language course has attracted over 100,000 students, reports the BBC. The MOOC (massive open online course) is the first run by the British Council which will deliver tuition free of charge. Spain, Burma and Russia are among the countries with the biggest number of students taking the six-week course and more than a third are following the course through their mobile phones. The online course has "tapped into the global demand" for learning English, said Sara Pierson, the British Council's head of English partnerships.
The PA has responded to the Independent Review of the Implementation of RCUK Policy on Open Access Call for Evidence. Our submission focused on two questions posed by the Review: the effectiveness and impact of the RCUK policy on publishers; and the impact on the wider open access landscape and will be available via The PA website early next week.
This week we met with the Minister for IP, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Number 10 Policy Adviser Christopher Lockwood, the Association of Authors Agents and the Booksellers Association, and attended a meeting of the Federation of European Publishers in Krakow, a Save the Children reception to mark the launch of its national literacy mission and the Reading Agency’s reception at Number 11 Downing Street.
Next week we will be meeting with the Department for Education, the FT and the Telegraph, and attending a Collective Rights Management workshop at the Intellectual Property Office, a MarkMonitor anti-piracy seminar, and a meeting of the Educational Publishers Forum.