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PA's PA 27th February

PA's PA 27th February

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the question of whether politicians can be trusted once again hit the headlines.  The Telegraph’s sting of two political grandees, Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, provided exactly the sort of damaging headlines no political party wants this close to a general election and brings other issues into the spotlight, such as MP pay, which the Parties campaign strategists would rather not have to deal with.  In other news, and demonstrating the wide and varied media we have in this country, we also learnt that Cameron likes to barbeque and Ed Balls is a long, slow burner in… [Let’s stop there! – Ed

Getting Europe digital…

The #Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum took place in Brussels on 24th February 2015. The one day event organised by the European Commission  featured workshops on: Single Market 2.0 – Going Digital, An Empowered, Protected Consumer, and Digital Technology and Copyright. Keynote speeches were delivered by  Vice President Andrus Ansip and European Commissioner Günther Oettinger. Ansip discussed the removal of geoblocking (using the BBC as an example of how this was detrimental to European consumers – the issue of the licence fee somehow being forgotten), creating a single data protection regime and creating interoperability across the EU. Similarly Oettinger discussed formulating  an EU data protection structure, copyright reform and creating digital EU with a robust digital skills base. The top civil servant in this area, Robert Madelin, was at pains to stress that the Commission wanted to listen to everyone and as evidence of this launched a portal for people to upload content and share their views.  In a slight shift from the Madelin of old, he did acknowledge that “Where we don’t need to act, we shouldn’t, but where we do need to it should be fast”.  The conference attracted an influx of questions from the floor and participants on Twitter – earning #Digital4EU the top spot as number one trending topic in Brussels.

UK clarification

The government has followed up on its promise to clarify its position with regards to copyright reform in Europe. Speaking in Copenhagen at a Digital Age Conference, IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe stated that “we want to see clearer rules across Europe, and targeted changes based on the best available evidence to ensure we have a copyright framework that supports economic growth, protects our creators, rewards creativity and responds to consumer needs’ [emphasis added].  Really good to get this need for reform to backed up by evidence back on the record.  Let’s hope the Commission (and our own representatives in Brussels!) are taking note. 

European Parliament update

Discussions in the European Parliament on the report prepared by Pirate Party MEP , Julia Reda, on the Implementation of the Info Soc Directive continue.  Members of Reda’s own Committee (Legal Affairs – known in the Parliament as JURI) have exchanged views with some strong support being articulated for content industries.  UK MEP Mary Honeyball was especially critical of the report stating that ensuring fair remuneration for rights holders needed to be the starting point.  She pointed out the nonsense behind the recommendation that the education exception should apply to ‘non-formal education’ and the absence of any reference to piracy or the VAT disparity.  Her leave behind comment, which was echoed by others, was that this report was supposed to be an evaluation of how the Directive has been implemented – not an opportunity to recommend new elements, some of which are quite dangerous.  Complementing the work of the FEP, The PA is directly engaging with UK MEPs to brief them on the impact the Report’s recommendations would have on the publishing sector in the UK.  


The issue of the disparity in the VAT levels between physical and e-books has been discussed at a meeting of Member States’ Culture Ministers.  Unfortunately, while there was strong support for this to be addressed from a number of countries, the UK remains opposed.  A position slightly at odds with that expressed in the infamous ‘non-paper’ which called for greater transparency in VAT regimes…

Labour and the arts

Ed Miliband has given a long-awaited speech on the arts and creative industries.  While the arts dominated, Miliband focused heavily on access to employment in the sector and its place in education.  The key policies raised were:

•       Strengthen creative education in schools and after-school clubs;

•       Widen access to our country’s arts and cultural institutions;

•       Build an economy where young people can succeed with better career pathways from school, college and university into the arts or creative industries; and

•       Placing arts policy at the heart of government and help rebalance provision for young people across the country.


As part of the last area, he announced that he would create a new Prime Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries were he to become Prime Minister and said it was important that DCMS wasn’t the only department responsible for policy because of the  “value and the need to protect copyright and intellectual property.”  He also committed to publishing “shortly” the Woodward Review, which those with long memories will remember was launched back in January 2014 by Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna.  Former UK Film Council boss John Woodward was tasked with looking into how Britain can capitalise on its cutting-edge creative industries and developments in the digital economy.   While there hasn’t been deathly silence since, it hasn’t been far off….


In an interview in The Telegraph, Google’s EMEA education head provides an update on developments with Google Play for Education and the company’s efforts to break into the schools market.  The PA followed up on this when it met with Google this week and will be arranging a separate meeting with the Google education team to discuss their initiatives in this area further. 

The Times reports (£) on plans from TES Global to allow teachers to sell their lesson plans online, commenting that this could prove a lucrative side-line for teachers with a strong reputation of good work.  Apparently one teacher has had his work on assessment and classroom behaviour views and downloaded more than 2 million times.  TES Global will provide an option for teachers charge for their content with TES taking a 40% cut.  

Movement from Ofsted on text books

The Telegraph reports that Ofsted could finally be overcoming its aversion to text books.  The article sees one of the root causes of the low rate of take up of text books in schools can be found in Ofsted’s attitudes, with teachers being scared to be seen using them during inspections.  It contrasts this attitude with that of successive education Ministers and data which demonstrates how high performing countries also have high level of text book use.  A change in approach from Ofsted in this matter is very welcome.

This week we have

Participated in the Digital4EU and #AskOettinger twitter chat, discussed a range of issues with Google including developments in Google Play for Education and online infringement, shared our experience of the UK’s recent copyright reform programme with representatives of the Brazilian Cultural Ministry, attended the FEP Winter meeting in Brussels, met with the European Booksellers Federation, as well as using the opportunity of the BRITS to discuss latest policy and political developments with John Leech MP, Emma McClarkin MEP, Baroness Bonham Carter, Lord Razzall and IPO CEO John Alty.

Next week we will be…

Spending time in the House of Lords meeting (separately) the Labour Shadow Culture Team in the Lords and with Lib Dem culture spokesman Lord Clement-Jones, attending a CICI lunch with Shadow Labour Minister for the Creative Industries Chris Bryant, discussing prison libraries at an All Party Group meeting, and attending a Government / UKTI reception for education stakeholders.