The Europe Creative Industry is still a bud waiting to flower

It needs target-oriented support to blossom fully

The Creative Europe programme must help the industry to flourish and unleash its full potential. The main focus needs to be placed on social inclusion, by creating sustainable, well-paid jobs and helping Europe's various creative industries to become competitive on the world market.

This is - in a nutshell - the credo of a hearing held on 23 October, organised by the Consultative Committee for Industrial Change (CCMI) at the EESC, which is currently drafting an opinion on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Creative Europe programme (2021 to 2027). 

At the outset, CCMI president Lucie Studničná stressed that the creative industry sector was one of the fastest growing and most resilient economic sectors, but had not won the recognition it deserved at European level. This sector is not only essential for our economy but also for our identity and values. It is already high time to adapt this sector from a regulatory point of view in order to help it develop further, she said.

EESC president Luca Jahier, who opened the event, in his speech recalled the development of his hometown, Turin, where 30 years ago around 80% of revenue had come from the automotive and metallurgic industries. While the Turin of my youth was a dirty industrial city, it is now clean and earns 70% of its revenue from culture, tourism, congresses and innovation. Investing one euro in culture is producing at least three euros in revenue, he stressed.  

Emanuelle Butaud-Stubbs, rapporteur for the opinion, highlighted the EESC's efforts to focus on the media, the importance of education with regard to media literacy and the fight against fake news.  Another challenge she saw was the one facing the European film industry, which had to compete with giant American film clusters that posed a serious threat to its global competitiveness.

Bernd Fesel referred to the first agenda for culture introduced by Commission President José Manuel Barroso in 2008; he stated that it was now - 10 years later - high time to include the creative industry, which provided 12 million full-time jobs. It is a very successful sector – growing despite a lack of EU support - and it is a driving force: it turns phones into mobiles, bricks and stones into city architecture and words into literature and free press, he argued.

The EU needed this sector. A focus on cross-sectoral strands was important in order to address potential synergies with other sectors. Since the added value of creative industries was at around 4-5%, it was important to further develop it, with innovation playing a key role. An increase in the current budget could be achieved by securing around 5% of Horizon 2020 for innovation. Since we live in very dynamic times, we should offer more open programmes, thus giving more flexibility to innovators, he urged.  

With regard to Brexit, Mr Fesel proposed using diplomacy and creating a joint board comprising the UK and Europe.

Jef Vlegels, a researcher from the University of Ghent, doubted that the Creative Europe programme was ambitious enough. He saw major shortcomings in the gender imbalance, caused by long working hours, unpaid work, and part-time and temporary contracts. Presenting figures from Belgium, he also referred to the low level of ethnic diversity, with only 2.5% of the sector's employees being born outside Europe. Even more alarming, almost 50% of work in the creative industry was unpaid; consequently 42.4% of the people currently working there did not see themselves in this occupation in 5 years' time.

There was also a difference between rural areas and big cities, where the latter were the driving force of the creative industry, thus contributing to more inequality between urban and rural areas.

When talking about the creative industry he preferred to talk about creative occupation rather than sector, since almost 70% of the workforce was working outside the sector. One thing that was the same both inside and outside the sector were the precarious working conditions.

Richard Polacek, Director of EURO-MEI, UNI Europa - media, entertainment and arts sector, highlighted five key challenges which were worrying for the media sector:

  • skills: audio-visual professionals needed to be equipped with the necessary skills to be able to fully engage in the digital environment, which was also precondition for innovation and new investment;
  • mobility: the media sector was a very mobile one. Double taxation, but also visa provisions and high visa fees were detrimental to the development of the sector;
  • wages, income and social security: respect for the intellectual property rights of authors and performers was crucial.  In a 2015 survey, more than 50% in the sector indicated that their salaries had decreased in recent years. Also, more than 50% admitted to having accepted unpaid work several times before obtaining paid assignments;
  • gender equality and diversity: active support of gender equality was needed and should be extended to diversity (age, ethnic origin, social background, etc.). Also Me too – sexual harassment - needed to be addressed.

Enrico Turrin, representing the publishing industry in Europe, with a market value of close to 40 billion per year, stressed that his industry was contributing  to cultural diversity, with more than half a million new titles per year in all European languages. We are the world leaders and we hope that Creative Europe will help us stay there, he said, mentioning promotion and distribution, but also special support for specific measures in some sectors as key elements of a supportive Europe Creative programme.

In her statement, Irena Strzalkowska from EURIMAGES referred to the co-production of films, which she saw as being directly linked to the distribution of films. In her view, more attention should be paid to promotion. Furthermore, Creative Europe should encourage Member States to have their own funds and programmes to better support film projects.

For EESC Member Tom Jones, author of the EESC opinion entitled Contribution of Europe's Rural Areas to the 2018 Year of Cultural Heritage, it was important to develop intergenerational skills in order to preserve Europe's cultural heritage, and this depended on how young people could be brought  into it. We need to reach out to young people and not just expect them to trust us anyway, he said, for instance by explaining to the youth of today the importance of Europe's values, illustrating the consequences – from history and from the world of today – and what it means when these values are not respected. The educational element is fundamental.

Another important element was social inclusion. Social inclusion is so much part of our cultural heritage. Therefore it must be part of the Creative Europe programme. We need, for instance, to address the stop-go pattern of careers in the creative sector, he underlined.

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