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Creative Industries Come Of Age

March 25, 2010

The creative industries are now accepted internationally as a key feature of the post-industrial world, accounting for between 3 and 6 percent of most nations’ economic activity and employing millions of people globally.

This is among the findings of a new review of the creative industries by Australian academics Professor Terry Flew and Professor Stuart Cunningham of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI).

“In the decade since it was first identified, the concept of Creative Industries has gained traction globally, but it has also been understood and developed in different ways in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North America, and also in international bodies such as UNCTAD and UNESCO,” they comment in their report Creative Industries After the First Decade of Debate.

The creative industries were first identified in a report to Britain’s Blair Government in 1998 which saw them as a central plank of the UK’s “post-industrial” economy, and one that was growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. In the US the creative industries were estimated to account for at least 6 percent of GDP, while they were from 3-5 percent in countries as diverse as Australia, China, Singapore and South Africa.

Ten years on and Australia’s creativity is estimated to contribute around 3 percent of GDP a year, and account for about 5 percent of the total workforce, making it worth around $A30-billion a year, Professor Flew says.

The following are now generally counted as members of the creative industries: publishing and literature; the performing arts; music; film, video, and photography; TV and radio; visual arts and crafts; advertising; design, including fashion; museums, galleries, and libraries; interactive media (including web design, games, mobile, etc.)

The United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) now recognizes the sector as “the cycles of creation, production, and distribution of goods,” noting that they focus on but are not limited to the arts and potentially generate significant income from trade and intellectual property rights. It regards them as “a new dynamic sector in world trade”, the study notes.

“However we define the creative industries or the creative economy it is a fast-growing and important part of both the national and global economy. The concept has now been taken up worldwide,” says Professor Flew.

“And even though it looks substantial, the mere economic statistics don’t really capture all those who are doing creative work. For many people, like musicians for example, their creative work is their second job. Thousands of creative people also work in banks, in the public service and large corporations, where they don’t get counted as part of the creative industries as such.”

In view of their growing importance, Australia should rethink its attitudes to the creative industries and the people who work in them, he suggests.

“For example Australian tourism strategy, besides promoting our wonderful natural assets, should also accentuate the richness, dynamism and vibrancy of our city cultures. You don’t find London promoting itself just on its historical aspects – but on its cultural breadth.

Australia has also been a late starter in capturing the opportunities and advantages of the digital age, because of the slow start to digital broadcasting. “We should be looking to produce far more digital products for international markets,” he suggests.

“Ten years on, Australians are still sometimes reluctant to acknowledge creativity as a truly Australian characteristic. As a result we undervalue our contribution to global popular culture: (rock group) AC/DC has been our largest cultural export by far, for example ““ but not many people are aware of it because we don’t place enough emphasis on this aspect of our national character. We tend to emphasize sport or mining instead.”

Some people are still keen to dismiss the creative industries, he adds: “You’d never get the degree of hostility to promoting the car industry that you get to promoting a creative activity. There’s some resistance to thinking about culture in industry terms in higher education for example, while some continue to regard culture as primarily a political battleground.”

The study suggests it is time Australia moved beyond this debate and embraced things such as the new participatory media culture, the relationship between cultural production and economic innovation and the role of public cultural institutions as the foundation for the creative jobs, exports and activities of the future.

Creative Industries After the First Decade of Debate by Terry Flew and Stuart Cunningham appears in the journal The Information Society, 26: 1″“11, 2010. It is at: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/29852/2/29852.pdf

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