UK video games industry ‘deserves’ similar status to music and film
Shakespeare, regional TV news and online piracy were among the issues facing the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the Commons yesterday.
Tom Watson, the former minister for digital engagement, made a passionate defence of the video games industry in the UK at Culture questions.
He stood down from the government last week.
“Video games make their players think, and they challenge them and make them focus, and many people in Britain believe that a medium that does that should be elevated to an art form,” he told Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, who was appointed on Friday.
“I hope my hon. Friend’s Department gives the video games industry a similar status to that of the UK music and film industries.”
Mr Bradshaw said he recognises the importance of the video games industry to the British economy.
“Research and development tax credits are available for the industry, and we are looking at introducing further tax breaks,” he told MPs.
“We will deal with the issue of classification, and other announcements that will, I think, please my hon. Friend will form part of the final report.”
The report, Digital Britain, was published in interim form in January.
Mr Bradshaw said there has been “extensive consultation, and we will publish the final report shortly.”
Paul Rowen, Lib Dem MP for Rochdale, was concerned about the future of regional news and regional content.
“Does he not agree that reallocating the money currently used for implementing digital TV would be one way of ensuring that the regions continue to get regional news and programme content on independent television?” he asked.
Mr. Bradshaw said all MPs “value the role played by regional news and acknowledges the importance of some competition and plurality of provision in regional news.”
However, he told Mr Rowen to wait for the report.
“I invite him to be patient a little longer,” he said.
Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle asked that “the digital money underspend” should be given to the ITV network, “ensuring that we have regional news in the north-west and across the other regions?
“Without it, the BBC will not have the competition it needs to ensure that quality and impartiality in news programmes.”
Mr Bradshaw agreed that a plurality of provision in regional news is important.
“However, I do not think it sensible at this stage to narrow the options for ensuring that,” he said.
“He advocates one position, but there might be others to consider. Whatever happens, I assure him that we will address the importance of regional news provision, its continuity and its plurality when we publish the final report.”
John Whittingdale, chair of the culture select committee, told Mr Bradshaw he had taken “one of the best jobs in government.”
He told the Secretary of State that online piracy is one of the most pressing problems for his new department.
“Does he agree that the best way forward is to press internet service providers to adopt a graduated response against offenders, rather than expect content providers to sue every offender in the courts?” he asked.
Mr Bradshaw referred him to the much-anticipated Digital Britain report and told Mr Whittingdale he would be “reassured” by the proposals.
Denis McShane said the BBC should be “subject to the full rigour of the Freedom of Information Act so that we can know everything about pay, allowances and expenses for all areas of BBC employment, including its presenters.”
The Culture Secretary reminded MPs he used to be a BBC journalist.
“As a co-former BBC employee, I am sure my right hon. Friend shares my admiration for the BBC as an organisation,” he said.
“The question he asks is, of course, for the BBC, but perhaps I can reassure him by saying that I believe that when the public pay for something through their taxes—or, in this case, the licence fee—they expect transparency and accountability, and I think they are right to have that expectation.”
Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt pointed out that Mr Bradshaw “is the fourth Culture Secretary in less than two years. In fairness, he has had only two days to prepare for today’s questions, so he has the support of the whole House, particularly today.”
Tory MP Mark Pritchard drew Mr Bradshaw’s attention to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Julius Caesar at Stratford-upon-Avon.
“A play full of deceit, lies, gossip, intrigue and assassins, but assassins with sharp knives not blunted knives,” he said.
“Will he tell the House what lessons can be drawn from Shakespeare, particularly from plays such as Julius Caesar, for the modern world?”
Mr Bradshaw replied:
“What I can say is that, having had to almost give up my cultural life over the past few years, I am looking forward, in this job, to spending a bit more time in the theatre in order to reacquaint myself with the lessons for our modern politics to be found in the great man’s works.”
Entry filed under: Commons. Tags: BBC, DCMS, John Whittingdale, Ben Bradshaw, Culture committee, William Shakespeare, Tom Watson, digital engagement, Freedom of Information Act, ITV, creative industries, Culture Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, Digital switchover, video games industry, Paul Rowen, digital TV, Digital Britain, Lindsay Hoyle, regional news, online piracy, ISP, internet service provider, FOI, Julius Caesar, Royal Shakespeare Company.