Harriet Harman MP has called for ‘creative devolution’ to follow political and economic devolution in a keynote speech at the Nations & Regions Media Conference in Salford yesterday evening (Tuesday 18 November).
The Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the need for rebalancing to address the disproportionate concentration on London and the South East in the Conference address, part of Salford International Media Festival organised by the University of Salford at MediaCityUK, the country’s second largest hub for the digital and media sectors.
Ms Harman confirmed that a future Labour Government would devolve significant economic powers and funding to city and county region authorities, and that this would give regional creative industries better access to skills support to generate jobs and growth.
Specific measures would include passing down budgets for skills and education for people aged 19 and over to local authorities to focus investment where it is needed, and the devolution of all business rate growth income so that regions can further reinvest in their local economies.
Ms Harman said: “No one in their right mind thinks that talent is only to be found in London. People living outside London should get a fair crack of the whip, and that means public policy supporting creativity in all parts of the country.
“As part of creative devolution we need a much greater focus on the work of local councils who, as Manchester exemplifies, can play a massively important role in developing and supporting cultural and creative activity in their areas – not least financially.”
In a wide-ranging speech, Ms Harman also addressed the issue of BBC reform and Charter renewal. While agreeing that the BBC is “not perfect”, she reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to the licence fee “because, for all its imperfections and anomalies, no one’s shown a better way of funding the BBC.”
Recognising the achievements of the British creative industries, Ms Harman also made it clear that there was still much further to go on improving diversity in the workforce.
She said: “It’s an uncomfortable truth that, when it comes to diversity, our creative industries are not good enough. Improving diversity is not just the right thing to do in principle, it also makes business sense.
“For our creative industries to stay ground-breaking and at the top of their game, it’s absolutely essential that they draw on the widest pool of talent and creativity which should be reflected in a more diverse workforce.”
“The best solution is for the industry to make swift progress on this on a voluntary basis. But no progress is not an option and if we felt there was no progress we'd want to look at other options.”
The Nations & Regions Media Conference is one of three events forming Salford International Media Festival, running from Monday 17-Friday 21 November, providing a forum for media stakeholders to debate the current climate and play an influential role in shaping the future of the sector.
Building on the rich history of the Nations & Regions Media Conference, the Festival has widened to provide a platform for academic discourse through the Challenging Media Landscapes Conference and a two-day Next Generation programme of activity to support new media talent, enabling Salford students to gain an insiders’ look into the industry.
Beth Hewitt, Salford International Media Festival Director, and Director of Conversion at the University of Salford’s School of Arts & Media, said: “We were really pleased to welcome Harriet Harman to the Nations & Regions Media Conference. The calibre of speakers involved in our 21st anniversary Conference reflects the significant position it has in the media industry calendar and its location at MediaCityUK, the country’s second largest centre for the media industries.”
Follow the latest from Salford International Media Festival on Twitter at @Salford_Media or #SIMF14.