Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA; in a week which Harriet Harman encouraged women voter to think pink and Ed Miliband encouraged HMRC to think Fink; and with a mere 82 days until the General Election, The PA’s Twitter Feed has started #ManifestoMonday. Each Monday between now and May 7th we will be tweeting one of our Publishing for Britain manifesto pledges.
Update from Government on the EU ‘non-paper
Following the publication last month of No 10’s “non-paper” on the Digital Single Market which appeared to signal a weakening in the Government’s position on copyright, The PA was part of a small rightsholder delegation to No 10 meet the author, policy adviser Dan Korski. The meeting had been organised through John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the All-Party Group on IP (and of the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee). Sports and audio-visual rightsholders were also present, as were various officials and advisers from No 10, IPO and DCMS.
In explaining the genesis of the document, No 10 said what we had assumed: that the UK is looking to be supportive of the Commission where it can – and the digital single market programme is an obvious area, given the strength of the UK’s creative industries. We highlighted that the perspective of creators and creative companies was missing from the non-paper, which is written explicitly from the perspective of consumers and start-ups. No 10 conceded this was an oversight.
On the central issue of copyright, No 10 were clear that there was no intention to weaken or reverse policy and that it remains the case that the UK would only support reform of copyright where there was a clear evidence-backed, economic case to do so (a line reinforced in a letter to The PA from the Minister for IP this week). However, the Government recognises that the perception of the language in the non-paper, in which there is no caveat placed on the support for reform, could give the impression of a change in tone. No 10 assured us that this is not the case and that this message is being conveyed through official channels into the Commission wherever possible. There was some disagreement as to the importance of this nuance – indeed, as to whether it is a mere nuance. Rightsholders stressed that all of those seeking more radical reform of copyright – not just Pirate Party MEPs but other corporate interests – had already seized upon the apparent shift in the UK position to strengthen their case. All agreed that the best approach from this point is to keep stressing the Government’s continued adherence to the need for evidence-based policy making.
Finally, there was a brief discussion of text and data mining, with The PA pointing out that the successful introduction of an exception in the UK, within the framework of the Copyright Directive, should obviate the need for a change in the Directive to allow it, and that the UK Government should emphasise this to the Commission.
The meeting ended with No 10 stressing again its desire to champion the creative industries within the context of advocating certain reforms to improve the workings of the digital single market. We have been asked to propose ideas for a potential EU based campaign, working with No 10, which could help deliver this message. All in all it was a constructive and cordial meeting. The message was delivered – and it appeared taken on – that the precise language used around these policy areas is of great importance, and that engagement with the sector before, rather than after, policy statements are made is essential.
John Whittingdale raised this further at BIS questions on the floor of the House managing to extract from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey confirmation that while it is the Government’s firm belief that consumers should be able to access content in a fair and reasonable way wherever they are, that they do support the right of industries with internet protocol to sell territorial licensing .
Labour’s response to the Government’s EU non-paper
Labour Shadow Culture Secretary and Deputy Leader (and sometime driver of a pink minibus), Harriet Harman, has written to the PM raising concerns about the paper the effect that the priorities it sets out will have on British interests – both consumers using digital services and businesses operating in the copyright and licensing sectors. The letter points to the fact that the UK has one of the largest creative sectors in Europe and is a hub for many global businesses seeking to access EU and global markets and therefore questions the approach the paper appears to indicate that the Government is taking. It categorically positions the Labour party on the side of creative businesses and states that the position he appears to have adopted is not one that Labour agrees with and that “A Labour Government elected in May would seek urgently to raise with the Commission and Council the matters I have raised here”.
Value of creative industries
For the first time in a while, the creative industries got airtime at Prime Minister’s Questions. Conor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West and member of the Culture Select Committee, pointed to the BAFTAs and Bournemouth’s position as the place with the fastest growing digital economy in the UK and asked the PM whether he agreed that Britain remains a world leader in the creative industries because of the talent of our people combined with long-term economic planning. Unsurprisingly, the PM did agree commenting that the creative industries are a vital part of our economy and our country. A useful counterbalance indeed to the contents of the non-paper he sent to Brussels as we continue to do battle with the European Commission over proposals which would undermine this success. On this matter, we have also received welcome confirmation from the IP Minister that the position of the UK government remains that they would only support interventions which are evidence-based and targeted to solve specific problems.
The PA attended two meetings with an international flavour at the Intellectual Property Office this week. The first was an briefing on the IPO’s work with China with the IP Attaché in China, Tom Duke, participating, by video conference. In fact, the meeting was very much led by Tom and served as a very useful update on both past activity and where their priorities are going forward in 2015. Both Tom and Adam Williams did however stress that their activity is guided by the needs of their stakeholders so if issues are raised they will be fed in. Highlights included: ongoing work on collective licensing and enforcement; plans for a third UK-China IP Symposium, this time in London towards the second half of the year; judicial training and exchange programme; the MOU with the Alibaba group which they will seek to get extended to other online platforms; and a UK/China Copyright Week which seek to pull together all the strands of their work in this area. The second, shorter, meeting was part of an initial scoping exercise the IPO is undertaking on IP-related issues businesses are facing in emerging markets. We were able to feed in the problems publishers are facing in Turkey, Mexico and Russia.
Tristram Hunt has been all over the air and print waves this week. He continued to have to back-track over his comments about the quality of teaching given by Nuns (apparently some of them now are “brilliant teachers”) and used an interview in The Times (£) to indicate respect for Michael Gove while dismisses the current Education Secretary as a “dim apparatchik”. Key policy pledges were repeated: he would keep the new primary and much of the secondary curriculum, and allow all existing free schools to stay, although new ones will be allowed only in areas of deprivation and appoint local school commissioners in order to regain some control of academies. Hunt also refused to say whether he would stand for Labour leader should a vacancy present itself.
Hunt has also called on teachers to take a public oath committing themselves to a set of values. Returning from a trip to that perennial favourite, Singapore, he drew comparison between countries such as Singapore and Finland who invest in training and improving the quality of teaching and the UK which has been obsessed with structural changes. Labour has also committed itself to protected the education budget in the next Parliament.
The discrepancy that sees VAT levied on Sixth Form Colleges but not School-based Sixth Forms has been raised by Graham Stuart, Chair of the Education Select Committee. In the Independent on Sunday, Stuart, heading up a cross-party campaign which already has the backing of 75 MPs, said VAT payments were costing sixth-form collages on average £335,000 a year, the equivalent of at least 10 teaching posts. He criticised the Government over its refusal to address this.
Reading for Pleasure
Dame Julia Cleverdon, Chair of the Read On Get On campaign, and the National Literacy Trust, was interviewed by The Independent and used the opportunity to talk about the campaign and the importance of ensuring literacy features in the main parties’ election manifestos.
The Westminster Education Forum Keynote seminar with the lengthy title Encouraging and Supporting Reading – Next Steps, Policy Options and School Library Provision in England took place on Wednesday. A series of panel discussions during the forum explored how to increase children’s literacy and encourage reading for pleasure both at home and in school. Emma Hopkin (Managing Director, Bloomsbury Children’s and Educational Publishing), joined a discussion on the importance of school libraries and the key role that librarians play to understanding the literary needs of children. Keynote speeches were given by children’s author John Dougherty who asserted that we are in danger of creating a generation of ‘non-readers’ by being too prescriptive about what actually counts as reading, and Matt Walker (Research Manager and Evaluation Lead, NFER) who evaluated the impact of the phonics screening test.
This week we have:
Met with Number 10 to discuss the Government’s non-paper on its vision for the EU Digital Single Market, briefed The Telegraph on current publishing issues, met with the Copyright Hub and received an update from the IPO on its work in China and emerging markets, attended a Westminster Education Forum event on libraries, attended the (possibly) final meeting of the RCUK’s Independent Review Group into Implementation of Open Access policy, and a meeting of the CEOs of the Read On Get On coalition partners.
Next week we will:
Be taking advantage of the half-term to hone our new PA “MEP Newsletter”; continue our dialogue with No 10 about the Government’s position on the Digital Single Market and (for one of our number at least) improve our skiing.