Commentary by Thomas Rabe, Chairman & CEO of Bertelsmann, published in ‘Horizont’
Exactly 62 years ago the first Eurovision program was broadcast on TV. What was then a pioneering work in Europe, where there were more border crossings than TVs, today is only worth a marginal note: Europe has since grown together both economically and culturally. And the creative community has long since become an important factor in the economy. In fact, the creative industry is one of the key growth sectors for Europe in the digital age. These are the findings of a study that Bertelsmann published today in conjunction with Enders Analysis.
It indicates that the creative sector in Europe’s largest economies – Germany, France and the U.K. – has seen more growth than the overall economy in recent years. In Germany, creative companies, e.g. in the television, movies, book, magazines and music sectors, contribute around €52 billion to gross value added each year. And so Germany, the land of car makers, is also Europe’s biggest creative hub.
If you add in France and Britain, €135 billion in gross value was generated by 430,000 companies with a total of more than 3.5 million employees. Companies in the creative industries account for more than three percent of all jobs in these three countries. However, their impact reaches far beyond this, as our survey shows.
Apparently, not only do about 95 percent of people in these countries regularly watch TV, almost 90 percent listen to music, and three-quarters use the Internet – the study also reveals that people are turning to media services in order to be creative themselves.
Nearly 70 percent of respondents in our representative survey describe themselves as creative. They feel that online services in particular play an increasingly important role. In Germany, two-thirds use the Internet as a creative platform. People are finding not only information and entertainment on digital platforms, but inspiration: Already, one in three Internet users uses online tutorials – for example, videos or e-learning offerings, which are increasingly replacing traditional forms of learning, including at companies.
There are many reasons why Europe has such a thriving creative industry: its high level of education, its cultural diversity, and not least its companies’ willingness to invest in ideas and artistic talent. Bertelsmann, for example, spends several billion a year on the production of creative content.
Britain’s creative economy, too, has profited significantly from the above developments in recent years – in the form of financial contributions, but also through the free exchange and trade with 27 countries on the continent. So the result of the Brexit referendum just over two weeks from now will have significant implications for Britain, a creative nation that has given the world legendary bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, as well as iconic characters from James Bond to Harry Potter.
The media industry will therefore be looking with great interest to London in the next few weeks – but also to Brussels. When the European Commission publishes new legislative proposals for the single digital market in September, it should proceed with caution. The success story of Europe’s creative industries can only be maintained if investment in content continues to pay off in the digital age. And for this, effective intellectual property protection is especially essential. The same rules of the game must apply to all market participants in areas like advertising regulation:
Here, TV channels are still subject to significantly more requirements and restrictions than online video platforms, though the European Commission’s proposals for a revision of the European Television Directive are a step in the right direction. Unlike television channels, YouTube and co. can largely decide for themselves how much advertising they offer. The fact that European law discriminates against European market participants is incomprehensible. We sincerely hope that all decision-makers will focus on ambitious, long-term solutions for Europe’s creative industries when they discuss the European Commission’s proposals in the months ahead.