Media plays important role in the development of creative industries

9 thoughts on why culture reporting remain relevant in times of political and economic instability from Sir John Tusa, ex-Managing Director of BBC World Service

1. Media coverage of culture and arts shapes the public discourse on a nation's future.

In a traditional country like Georgia, which faces new circumstances and difficult challenges, media reporting on culture becomes especially important, and it doesn't matter whether reporting covers mass, high or low culture. Culture would exist even if there were no economic consequences; in fact, strip away politics from a nation's identity and what is left is culture. It is partly what the nation was, partly what the nation is, and also what the nation will be.

2. Media plays an extremely important role in the development of creative industries.

It was not until 1990 when a UK government-commissioned study found strong evidence about how important the creative industries were. Yet, for several years, the government didn’t quite believe in it. Finally, the Finance Minister was persuaded that the sector was as large as manufacturing and he finally started talking about it. The media followed the suit to give publicity to the creative sector, which provided an enormous boost to the people who worked in this field. To sum up, once the creative industries were created, government and media recognition followed, neither of which cost anything.

3. Reporting on creative industries provides fascinating material for Media editors.

Media editors are always in lookout for a good material and they always complain about a lack of human-interest stories. People, who work in the creative industries, do provide human-interest stories and writing about them can be fascinating – stories that are very positive, very human, very individualistic, stories that are often about success, but not just about success. Most importantly they engage reader’s interest.

4. While important economically, creative industries can also project nation’s soft power.

By definition, creative industries consist of acts of individual creativity that lead to the creation of intellectual property. To put it simply - invent it, own it, get paid for it.

In the UK and in Europe as a whole, the creative economy has been the sector with the biggest employing capacities for the past 20 years. It consists of 13 industries: advertising, architecture, art and antiques market, craft, design, designer fashion, film, video games, music, performing arts, publishing, computer software, TV and radio. In the UK, these create 8% of all jobs and 9% of the UK exports. While government can introduce additional incentives to support the creative economy, say, in the form of taxes, it cannot create or direct the growth of the creative economy: only individuals can do it through “start-ups”. By virtue of being individualistic, pluralistic, and humanistic, creative industries can also become part of a nation's soft power.

5. Social Media act as a catalyst for change but unable to handle what comes afterward.

The social media have been good at producing the atmosphere within which change takes place and impotent when it came to building what happens afterward. During Arab Spring, social media played huge role in toppling down dictators but the power of a citizen journalist turned insufficient in managing the painful transitional period that came afterward when most nations ended up in much worse conditions than before. Traditional media journalists, on the other hand, have capacity to take in the large amounts of information, synthesize it with their existing knowledge, and produce balanced reporting.

6. Public funding for the arts is a prerequisite for successful commercial institutions.

There is a seamless connection between public funding of culture and eventual success of commercial cultural ventures. London’s West End is world famous for its theaters that make a great deal of money. That said, most of the actors and directors graduated from Britain's public schools, and got their first jobs and experience in publicly funded institutions. Thus, there is a strong connection between arts training provided in schools and colleges, and the success of commercial institutions that employ these people.

7. Arts education at primary school level could be a factor in developing creativity.

While most governments emphasize teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills, teaching art at a primary school level can help students to look at things with a fresh eye, develop creativity, and to start thinking independently.

8. British system of funding for the arts is most democratic and dispersed.

Unlike the American model of funding for the arts, where money comes almost exclusively from private/corporate sources, or the European (Germany, France) model, where most of the money is public due to their societies strong sense of political and social responsibility, Great Britain uses a combination of several options. It relies on: a) public funding, b) box office revenues, c) private/corporate donations, and d) an alternative use of organization's own space. Overall, those multiple options provide more flexibility to British culture organizations, thus enabling them to adjust to changing political and/or economic circumstances much easier. Last twenty years have seen dramatic changes in the ways culture organizations fund their activities, especially with an enormous increase in private/corporate donations as well as in alternate usage of an organization's own space (catering, renting to other organizations, etc.). The change has been organic, not as the result of any specific government policy.

9. "Arms Length" and Renewability policies are two pillars of why the British model is so successful. 

Arms Length policy keeps distance between the government that provides funds and the organization that receives those funds. While the government can appoint person(s) to run the organization, it usually does not interfere. In other words, it gives the money but doesn’t exercise control. British cultural organizations enjoy operational independence, with their own boards and bylaws. When the Greek government demanded from the British government that the British Museum return the collection of old sculptures, the government said, quite rightly, that the Museum was an independent organization that couldn't be told what to do. Arts Council, Britain’s main provider of funds for cultural organizations, makes funding decisions once every 3 years. This year it canceled funding to 200 arts organizations that didn’t accomplish what they said they would and instead gave funding to 200 new entities. Renewability is a very healthy part of how British cultural organizations function.

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