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UK Industry Welcomes New Government, Highlights ‘Pressing Issues’

The U.K.’s entertainment industry has responded to Labour’s landslide victory in the country’s general election, which ends 14 years of Conservative rule with Keir Starmer set to become prime minister.

With Labour’s win widely anticipated thanks to the plummeting public support for the Conservatives, performing arts union Equity sent out a statement long before the first results were announced that laid out some of its hopes for the incoming political regime.

“With the election completed, our new government must get to grips with the performing arts and entertainment, a critical sector for the U.K.’s long-term success,” it said. “We’ll be pressing the new administration to set out a long-term plan for U.K. arts funding to reach the European average, to tackle the high upfront fees charged by casting directories, to make Universal Credit fairer for freelancers, to ensure public subsidy only supports work on decent union terms and to fight for better rights in the video games and TV commercials sector.”

The union added: “There are no creative industries without this incredible workforce. It’s time politicians stand up and offer them the same recognition that is offered by audiences across the world.”

Equity’s statement underlined growing dissatisfaction from the industry as to how the outgoing government has handled various crises that have impacted the industry, not least the pandemic and Hollywood strikes that saw vast swathes of the U.K.’s predominantly freelance workforce unemployed. Many have fallen through the cracks of the benefits system — including the furlough scheme put in place during COVID lockdowns — and have been forced to leave the sector altogether.

In a statement posted on X, entertainment union Bectu said it welcomed the new government and the “promise of change to a party who recognizes the creative industries’ huge contribution and appreciates that they’re a key sector for the future,” hoping that it will translate into a “fruitful relationship” with itself and other trade unions.

“We’ve been pleased to see Labour’s commitment to championing access to the arts for all, a strong plan for developing skills, opening up apprenticeships and improving workers’ rights,” the statement said. “We look forward to working with them to tackle some of the pressing issues facing the sector. Sustained funding, improved freelancers’ rights, and more sustainable working conditions all need swift attention, and after seemingly endless political shrill surrounding the BBC, we’re pleased to have a party in power that won’t use our world-class Public Service Broadcaster as a political football.”

Similarly, Andy Harrower, CEO of directors’ organisation Directors U.K., highlighted three key measures for Labour that he said would “make a real improvement to the working lives of the U.K.’s freelance film and TV directors.” Among them were a “Freelance Commissioner” to represent and defend the interests of 4.3 million freelancers, a “Smart Fund” to pay creatives for the private copying and consumption of their content of digital devices” and “robust regulatory action” to ensure that the AI sector respects the “U.K.’s ‘Gold Standard’ IP Copyright Regime and honors their obligations to that system through transparency, accountability and financial compensation.”

James Burstall, CEO of indie production group Argonon, also expressed optimism about the new government, saying that he had met some of the incoming ministers and was “encouraged and hopeful that we will see strong, sustainable and much-needed support for our sector in the coming months and years.” But he said this support was “urgently needed,” noting that since 2023 the creative sector had “endured — and continues to battle against — a perfect storm of tough economic headwinds, fracturing business models and declining audiences, with huge knocks on effects for our world class production base as well as our talented freelancers at all levels. These are the immediate challenges we’re facing today.”

Burstall noted that Labour had previously outlined the importance of the creative industries and showed an “ambition” to ensure that the BBC and other British creative institutions could invest in content.

“As an identified priority sector, we welcome early engagement with the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] and wider government to tackle both these pressing challenges — as well as the longer-term needs such as skills training, creative and production incentives and protecting IP for — to ensure the future success and sustainability of our industry,” he said.

Speaking to Variety just a day before the election, Zygi Kamasa, the former Lionsgate U.K. boss and founder of local distribution and production banner True Brit, outlined the concerns facing the independent film sector, including “extraordinary inflation costs of crew fees, studios and locations” for productions.

“The new government needs to analyze and review ways of supporting skills and training of new and younger crew, but also ensure that British independent features are supported by interventional measures,” Kamasa said. “These measures could range from price ceilings that locations, studios, post-production houses and VFX firms should charge British independent feature films, combined with a legal commitment for those private firms and businesses to guarantee a percentage of their space/work to British indie films.”

Source: Variety