Calls by a select committee for freelancer support and creation of a “Creators Council” to help the cultural sector rebound from the coronavirus crisis have been welcomed by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).
An initial report from the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee released yesterday set out measures designed to help the sector, warning coronavirus is “the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure, institutions and workforce in a generation”.
Among a raft of proposals, the committee called for a Creators Council to create better dialogue with DCMS. This “could boost confidence across the sector and ensure its views are represented at a time when many of the creative industries workforce are struggling to stay in the sector.”
The committee said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme had been a lifeline but the fact many self-employed people had missed out and the schemes were coming to an end placed the sector's workforce at "significant risk".
Sector-specific versions of the schemes should be introduce alongside a recovery deal that includes continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies, it said.
The committee, which mainly focused on performing arts, also criticised the government's Cultural Renewal Taskforce for its “worrying lack of diversity and representation”. The taskforce, which includes no one currently working in publishing, “has been slow to demonstrate meaningful progress”, the report said.
The ALCS said it had been campaigning for a Creators Council for years, ensuring their views are fairly represented and they are included in the development of cultural policy. An all-party Parliamentary Writers Group inquiry on authors’ earnings also suggested such a move. Concern for freelancers was also echoed by the ALCS, which is calling for workforce support measures to support them.
ALCS deputy chief executive Barbara Hayes said: “A Creators Council would be an important channel to ensure the Government hears from the UK’s brilliant creators and their representatives and draws on their experience to ensure good policy for our culture and creative industries.
“Before the pandemic, studies had shown authors’ incomes are in decline, and evidence shows declining incomes would harm the variety and diversity of works created across our country. It is clear from the evidence presented so far that the pandemic could make this situation even more severe, so we welcome the committee’s calls for targeted measures to support the UK’s creative community. With better policy, we can ensure the UK’s authors are fairly rewarded for their contribution to society.”
Among the evidence given to the select committee was a warning from Dr Dave O’Brien of the University of Edinburgh that the creative industries workforce remains “highly exclusive” because of the role of social networks and financial resources needed to to support low pay jobs.
He said: “Covid-19 will unquestionably make these issues worse. There will be fewer cultural organisations, whether in the arts, in media, music, film and TV, publishing, or in museums; there will be fewer job and project opportunities; competition for those opportunities will intensify; the winners will be those who already have economic, social, and cultural resources.”
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