Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in a week in which the travelling conference circus pitched up in Manchester for the Conservative Party Conference. With Cameron having already announced his intention to not fight the next General Election, there was much jostling amongst potential leadership candidates for the media headlines. The front runners, George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Theresa May, all gave assured addresses from the conference stage but it was the Home Secretary’s that won the media coverage battle, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Europe continues to dominate debate within the Party as was evident by even just a cursory look at the fringe guide with the pro-Europeans in the Party looking more and more marginalised.
Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network
As part of this week’s Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network (CACIN) Conference took place at the Old Granada Studios, previous home of the Coronation Street set. Chaired by Damien Collins MP, panels throughout the event explored topical issues affecting the creative sector.
How do we make more of culture to power our creativity?
Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP (Secretary of State, DCMS) highlighted the importance of the creative industries to the UK commercial and cultural economy and the need for a flourishing arts culture for the sector to continue its success. He then joined panellists Laura Harper (Head of Creative Industries, Shoosmiths LLP), Michael Eakin (Chief Executive, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic), Darren Henley (Chief Executive, Arts Council England) and Tom Bloxham (Chairman and Co-Founder, Urban Splash) to explore ‘how do we make more of culture to power our creativity.’ The speakers unanimously agreed that the creative sector plays an integral role in society and must have a secure and stable level of investment to ensure that it produces world class content and maintains a talented workforce in years to come. The apprenticeship levy was championed by John and corroborated by Damien who argued that it was almost a form of R&D for the sector to create a sustainable stream of investment in workforce development. One of the main challenges highlighted by the speakers, was the need to see greater investment in areas outside of London.
What should be the role of a Public Sector Broadcaster?
The next panel saw speakers Laura Mansfield (Chair, pact) and Andrew Scadding (Director Public Affairs, BBC) examine ‘What should be the role of a Public Sector Broadcaster?’ Laura highlighted the BBC’s reputation as a leader in the creation of high quality content across broadcasters nationally and internationally. She identified the lack of ability of producers to trade in their IP rights as a challenge in the current system. IP has underpinned growth over the past few years and it is essential that producers are able to capitalise on their production. There is also a potential competition challenge with the establishment of BBC Studios which will compete directly with Indies. There will be an inherent lack of fairness in the market as the production house stands as a £400m competitor with the benefit of state aid. Andrew stated that while the BBC produces a wide range of content, it still needs to be more representative of the different cultures across the UK. Both speakers agreed that there needs to be greater investment in production outside of London and Salford.
What do changing consumer habits and new technology mean for policy makers?
Closing the conference panellists Ed Vaizey MP (Minister of State, Culture & Digital Economy) Helienne Lindvall (songwriter, musician and journalist) Marianne Grant (Senior Vice President MPAA) and Toby Syfret (Head of Television, Enders Analysis) explored ‘what do changing consumer habits and new technology mean for policy makers?’ Ed asserted that we live in the golden age of content and that in order for the creative sector to thrive there must be firm support of IP rights and a better balance between the use of carrot and stick for users who access infringing content. He highlighted portability as one of the challenges that the sector needs to overcome. As a singer and songwriter, Helienne gave a creators perspective; discussing how safe harbours have caused record labels to lose a significant amount of revenue and reduced their ability to invest in burgeoning young talent. Marianne presented a potential solution in the form of characters Genuine and Dodgy, who will feature in a new campaign to encourage users to access content legally. ‘Get it Right From a Genuine Site’
As the CACIN conference 2015 came to end, it was then off for a pint to the Rovers Return!
Speaking at the National Literacy Trust’s fringe event at Conservative conference, Education Secretary (and leadership hopeful) Nicky Morgan reiterated her support for the work being done by the literacy charities and others in the UK to get children reading well, and set as a clear ambition the need to tackle child illiteracy. While not mentioned directly her announcement that she is working with the publishing industry to get a cannon of 200 books into schools, she did say she wanted children to be exposed to ‘more stretching literature’ but didn’t define what she meant by that. Reference was also made to the Read On Get On campaign. For NLT, Jonathan Douglas highlighted two elements that are needed if we are to be successful: 1. What is most effective is what is most local, highlighting the fact that as problems areas are facing are individual, the solutions must be as well. 2. Business partnerships are a vital ingredient citing the partnerships NLT has built with Boots Opticians and the Premier League.
The PA has responded to the Government’s consultation on the apprenticeship levy. We welcomed the Government’s commitment to place employers in “the driving seat” and, in order for that to become a reality, called on the Government to allow companies to determine the direction, speed and purpose of their journey and create a system which is inherently flexible. It was important to note that while employees in all companies should be able to benefit from the new apprenticeship programme, such programmes are not appropriate vehicles for relevant training within all companies. If companies are to be made to direct a certain amount of their revenues to skills training it is important that they should be permitted to spend it on programmes and models of training which are relevant to their business needs. Read our full response here.
News reaches us from the Netherlands that a Dutch court has ruled that Google has to hand over the personal details of a user who published pirated eBooks online. The information was requested by anti-piracy group BREIN, working on behalf of a local book publishers' organization. The background is that earlier this year the General Publishers Group (GAU) discovered that several eBooks belonging to its members were being sold illegally on Google Play. Using the handle Flamanca Hollanda / Dragonletebooks, a Google Play ‘publisher’ was selling eBooks far below the regular price. The publishers reached out to local anti-piracy group BREIN, who successfully asked Google to remove the files. However, Google refused to a separate request to identify the account holder. Citing privacy concerns, Google noted that it would not hand over any data without a court order, leaving BREIN with little other alternative than to take the case to court. Yesterday The Hague Court ruled that Google must hand over the personal details tied to the Google Play account as well as the Google account that was used to sign up. In its defense, Google had argued that BREIN’s request could violate international privacy laws, if the account holder turns out to be foreign. However, the court noted that it could not be the case that possible international violations prevent Dutch law from being applied. The court further concluded that in this case the rights of copyright holders outweigh other rights, such as freedom of expression. However, the affected user will be given the opportunity to appeal the handover within two weeks, which the court will then review separately.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been finalised. This trade deal, between amongst others the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Australia, is the largest trade deal in 20 years and according to President Obama is so countries like China do not “write the rules of the global economy”. The deal does not include the EU prompting comment from many MEPs. According to Scottish MEP David Martin, “The European Union must not be left behind…Opening up markets and breaking down trade barriers are the means to an end, and that end must be sustainable, fair and inclusive growth”. Liberal Leader Guy Verhofstadt believes that “the conclusion of TPP puts additional pressure on the EU to speed up its trade agenda”. In copyright, the IP chapter establishes commitments requiring protection for works, performances, and phonograms such as songs, movies, books, and software, and includes effective and balanced provisions on technological protection measures and rights management information. As a complement to these commitments, the chapter includes an obligation for Parties to continuously seek to achieve balance in copyright systems through among other things, exceptions and limitations for legitimate purposes, including in the digital environment. The chapter requires Parties to establish or maintain a framework of copyright safe harbours for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These obligations do not permit Parties to make such safe harbours contingent on ISPs monitoring their systems for infringing activity. Interestingly, Hilary Clinton has broken with Obama and come out against the deal. Read more here.
This week we have been:
At Conservative conference meeting, amongst others, John Whittingdale, Ed Vaizey and Baroness Neville-Rolfe; meeting with the Today programme; celebrating the launch of Books Are My Bag 2015.
Next week we will be:
At Frankfurt Book Fair, meeting international colleagues and discussing solutions to shared policy issues, and hosting (with the Association of American Publishers and the International Publishers Association) our annual Anti-Piracy Breakfast.