The BBC - helping the creative economy to grow

Director, Policy and Strategy

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Helping the creative industries restart and diversify Britain's economy is a crucial element of Jeremy Hunt's plan for a new Communications Act. How then does the BBC measure up to this aspiration?

A BBC report published today, Helping Drive growth in the UK creative economy (PDF), describes how the Corporation helps create the right conditions for growth in the creative sector. The BBC's primary purpose is to inform, educate and entertain but, like other public institutions, it can make a positive contribution to growth. The BBC does this in two ways: by enhancing the productive potential - 'supply-side' - of the creative sector, and by stimulating the demand for services, products and exports. Here are some examples of how this works in practice.

Training and developing creative talent: Last year the BBC invested over £30m in training the creative sector, and supplied over 3,800 days of training to more than 2,400 non-BBC staff. The talent nurtured benefits the wider industry, with many presenters, writers and performers moving between the BBC and commercial broadcasters and independent producers.

Investing over £50m in Research & Development activity: Because the BBC is committed to open platforms and technologies, we enable other companies to create their own value on the back of them. Just think how many set top boxes, flat-screen TVs and digital radios have been sold as a result of the BBC's work on Freeview, Freeview HD, FreeSat, NICAM and many other innovations.

UK content sector: The BBC's £1 billion investment, combined with healthy competition for commissions between in-house and independent suppliers, has helped underpin a vibrant commercial UK production sector. Without this role, the sector could lose over a quarter of its income.

Supporting digital markets: BBC Online - now the 5th-most popular web destination for UK users - gave many people a reason to go online for the first time. Likewise, BBC iPlayer has helped expand the audience for online audiovisual content to the benefit of other providers. Our work to support RadioPlayer has bought around 300 commercial radio stations together in one place.

Growing exports and inward investment through BBC Worldwide. Our commercial arm continues to grow, doing business in 200 countries and territories. It works with over 300 indies and turns the best UK content into global brands. Turnover increased 7.8% to £1,158m last year; it now accounts for nearly 10% of UK creative industry exports; and helped attract £59m of inward investment in 2009/10 from overseas broadcasters.

Showcasing and supporting the Arts. through outstanding projects like A History of the World in 100 Objects, the BBC provides significant benefits to other cultural organisations. In the last week alone, we've launched two more such landmark projects - Handmade in Britain in partnership with the V&A, and the Private Lives of Medieval Kings with the British Library. And through our radio stations and BBC Introducing we help discover great British music talent that often goes on to global success.

Delivering our sixth public purpose - to bring new communications technology to audiences - helps the economy rebalance towards more digital, high-tech industries.

Creative clusters. By focussing our expertise geographically such as Natural History in Bristol and Drama in Cardiff, the BBC has created sustainable production centres, helping the UK to have a more balanced economy. Many thousands of people will directly benefit from employment, training, business or partnership opportunities from MediaCityUK in Salford.

The BBC can only benefit the creative industries in these ways because of its scale, international reach, stable funding and commitment to the highest levels of quality.

At a time when more and more public institutions are being challenged to make a contribution to growth as well as to fulfil their public functions, the BBC has hopefully shown a lead.

John Tate is Director, BBC Policy & Strategy and Chairman, BBC Studios & Post-Production

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