Below please find key take-outs from our May 26th panel featuring Secretary of State Oliver Dowden; Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4; Dawn Airey, Chair - FA Women's Super League & Women's Championship Football at The Football Association and Chair, National Youth Theatre; and James Graham, British playwright and screenwriter.
- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has shot to prominence since the Leveson Inquiry and its importance has only increased in recent years with the addition of “Digital” to its remit, it has developed into a major economic force, responsible for 14 per cent of the economy. In the immediate future, the Secretary of State said its priorities will include:
- Driving technology and the Digital Revolution – the UK is at the forefront of digital industries. They have played a huge roll in keeping us going in the pandemic, and they are now seeing a step change in their position in the economy. To ensure the UK can take full advantage of this we need to provide the infrastructure for digital industries to grow and innovate, while building a competitive marketplace and making sure that we can protect people from online harm.
- Reopening and securing growth after COVID – the Government has protected institutions across sport and the creative sectors and now we need to see them thrive as restrictions are lifted. We still have work to do in getting to stage 4 where we can remove COVID restrictions, and we must be careful in gathering the evidence base to support that reopening. The UK is a creative industries super power and we must build on that as we emerge from the pandemic.
- Standing up for our cultural values – The Government has shown it is willing to be firm in standing up for the things that matter to the British people, and the things that are part of our national fabric. We should not be afraid to act as the Government did in response to the European Super League.
- All of the panel agreed that the Cultural Recovery Fund has provided much needed support for numerous sectors, but James Graham stressed that we now need to make sure that funding is filtering through the creative sectors, reaching all the way through to the freelance workers that are essential to the creative industries and ensuring that the whole ecosystem is reopening and recovering. Dawn Airey and Alex Mahon also spoke about the need to learn from the experience of the pandemic and make use of innovation, not only to reimagine the ways that broadcasters and content producers work but to reset our thinking and reach new audiences across the country, particularly the young.
- As sport returns in the coming months, Dawn Airey suggested that there will be an overwhelming demand for live experiences in the future and argued both for the need to build the facilities to allow for this and to funnel this interest into building further support and interest for women’s football. Access to sport and facilities will also be crucial for all age groups – 40 million people play football in the UK, but 1 in 3 pitches are not fit for purpose and we need to use recovery funding to address this issue in deprived areas.
- The Secretary of State also spoke about the importance of online safety and media literacy, noting that it remains one of the Governments key priorities. He said one of the success stories of the pandemic has been the collaboration between Government and online platforms to encourage take-up of the vaccine, which has seen the UK achieve one of the highest take-up rates in the world. Though he urged the need for caution about the spread of fake news, regarding the exemption of publishers from the scope of the Online Safety Bill he said the Government is clear that the protection of a free and independent press is of paramount importance both to the sector and to the culture and democratic values of the UK.
- However, he raised several other areas of concern for online safety that must be addressed. These include the use of end-to-end encryption on certain platforms and particularly how this can impact child safety online. He also noted that the Government is also working to ensure that its upcoming Artificial Intelligence Strategy can deliver a rich ecosystem for AI, while working to challenge potential issues and address people’s concerns about the use of AI technologies.
- The Secretary of State concluded by stressing that, with the right digital infrastructure, the UK has an opportunity to grow new areas of the economy across every region of the country. But he argued that culture will, and must play an important role in bringing us together and enriching our society as we adjust to new ways of working and a new type of economic growth. Levelling up is not just a question of the economy, it has to encompass culture to be truly successful.