UK Publishers Association: Upbeat on Labour’s Manifesto

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Dan Conway at the UK’s Publishers Association applauds Labour’s goal ‘to uphold human creativity and the UK’s copyright regime.’

In Clerkenwell, part of London’s Islington borough. May 24. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Sebastien Mercier

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also: The UK’s Dan Conway: Election Platforms and Publishing

‘A Strong Indication of Support for Our Sector’
As you’ll remember, our June 11 report looked at reactions from CEO Dan Conway at the United Kingdom’s Publishers Association to political party manifestos being released in the UK ahead of the July 4 general election called by Rishi Sunak, particularly in light of the association’s March publication of its Vision for Publishing: The Role of Publishing in the United Kingdom’s Success.

What’s at issue here are various policy measures and the political will to implement them that the robust UK market’s £11 billion book business (US$14.4 billion) is looking for from the UK’s government.

As background, remember that in early May, Conway and the association were very upbeat on an assessment from the House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee of issues around artificial intelligence. That Lords report, as Conway pointed out, included a “prominent call for the government to take action to support rights holders” amid the unauthorized, unremunerated use of copyrighted content for the training of Large Language Models.

The creative industries’ conclusion, as voiced by the Baroness Stowell, was that, “The government is avoiding taking sides on a contentious topic.”

One of the main elements that publishers and others in the creative sector, then, are watching for is which political parties’ platforms are being written to include issues of AI and the copyright protections than generative large language models and other technological exploits can upend, as well as payment of creative workers, research and development funding, and more.

‘The Importance of the UK’s Creative Industries’

Today (June 13), we an update the Publishers Association’s examinations of the major parties’ position paper, the last of the key such documents, the Labour Party’s manifesto.

In his response, Conway issues a keen endorsement of the approach he finds in Labour’s 136-page statement. While other manifestos aren’t as supportive of the publishing industry’s interests, Labour’s outlook, Conway finds, clearly reflects some of the satisfying impact that its spring campaign to put across book publishing’s needs to policymakers has had. He writes:

“We welcome the rightful recognition of the importance of the UK’s creative industries and research institutions in Labour’s manifesto released today. The commitment to implement Labour’s creative industries sector plan—which promised to uphold human creativity and the UK’s copyright regime—is to be strongly applauded.

Dan Conway

“While there’s no more specific detail on AI in the creative industries in the manifesto, we stand ready to ensure that our ongoing work on transparency requirements for AI companies continues.

“We’re heartened to see that the Publishers Association’s priorities, as set out in the Vision for Publishing, are echoed throughout the manifesto. We warmly welcome the championing of creative subjects in schools and the commitment to more flexible apprenticeships. As a world-leading export industry, the trade strategy to promote access to international markets is also welcome.

“Our leading children’s and education publishers can play a key role in delivering Labour’s promised improvements in early-years education, the curriculum review, and reform of assessment.”

Led by Keir ‘No-Drama’ Starmer, Labour today has released its manifesto while holding a commanding 20-point lead in opinion polls, according to Reuters’ writeup from David Milliken. The Labour manifesto, as Milliken writes, “matches a pledge by prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives not to raise income tax rates, employees’ national insurance contributions, value-added tax, or corporation tax.”

One of the high-level directional cues in the Labour manifesto on Page 28 refers to establishing a clearer path forward for creative businesses than has been in place: “Great British industries need certainty over the policies that will apply to them. In opposition, Labour has worked with the automotive, life sciences, and creative sectors, on the approach we will take to policy. In government, we will set out plans for these and other vital sectors of the economy.”

As Conway points out, references to the creative industries are frequent, and at one point (Page 123), there are references to “increasing the UK’s international clout” through “the soft power of our world-leading cultural institutions”—which are reflected in the British book industry’s major commitment to export.

And, of course, one of the interesting elements of the upcoming UK election scenario is that it’s one in which a national election seems to be headed for a sharply more liberal turn than the rightist directions observed in many other nations, especially around last weekend’s European Parliament elections.

Should the electoral currents continue to move in the directions assessed by most observers at this point in the UK, a government that’s—at least on paper—more receptive to, and inclusive of, the broad outlines of the book publishing industry’s needs and those of its sister industries in culture should be moving into place.

“Overall, this is a manifesto that champions the UK’s leading creative and research industries at home and abroad,” Conway writes, “and will be welcomed by the publishing world as a strong indication of support for our sector.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the UK’s Publishers Association is here, more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.