The financial power of the clever industries – comparable, we’re told, to the financial-services sector, again growing at twice the speed of the ordinary economy – was the subject of a report from the Work foundation received the day before the change of premiers. This was partly as a result of of the risk that the foreword by culture secretary Tessa Jowell might have a sell-by date, but also as a result of the celebration of entertainment – or “knowledge economy” in the report’s coinage – feels instinctively more Blairite than Brownite.
The government-commissioned survey praises our various fun factories (theatres, museums, radio, TV, computers) through being unusually innovative and responsive to the demands of the consumer. A large copy of david Tennant as Doctor Who holds up the rebuilt timelord, whose adventures are filmed in Wales, as an exemplar of job creation, regional funding and pleasure-giving. Besides the BBC, the British Library, V&A and National Theater are singled out as, you endowment say, the Microsofts or Waitroses of the knowledge economy.
What’s amazing about that list, after a decade in which economic rhetoric has hymned the power of the market or the public-private partnership, is that these cultural powerhouses have received huge and long state aid, either through grants or the licence fee. Anticipating this objection, the life Foundation’s Will hutton encourages us to view these handouts in that “investment” rather than “subsidy”. Yet it’s still sensational to read arguments applied to the arts that few politicians or lobbyists would now dare invoke in contingency to railways, telecommunications or post.
The traditional defence of national handouts and quasi-nationalized structures in theatre, museums again broadcasting is that the subject are different from business: an regular market consign encourage cheap, unwell work. I’ve all the time accepted that argument, however the Work Foundation seems, like a modish movie, to be prolonged meridian and contradictory narratives, in which culture is favorably compared with other industries, although the basis for the comparison is often false.
For example, the area in which the a laugh businesses are most breakneck is productivity. The report questions whether the manufacturers of entertainment always do enough to maximize the impact of their successes. A bourgeois spirit that discovers it has stumbled on an innovative deed to which the public responds will usually bustle out as many copies as possible.
But culture, though a crowded industry, often has fresh in common with tiny, specialized businesses – such as the makers of terrific activities cars besides fashion, or jewelry of personalized design – in that the limited supply may be the works to the sign. The most extreme case is theater, situation the optimum product may be available to lone 200 people a night in that the fortnight before the cast become bored.
The same applies in television. The demand for Doctor Who is so strong, workaday economic logic suggests that “roll-out” should be “maximized” beyond the paltry dozen or so episodes a interval. But, as the creation of an EastEnders factory proved – its pistons straining to pump out yards of shoddy mockney dialog – maximizing the roll-out of shows can rapidly remove the qualities to which the public respond.
The most vivid ostentation of this fault-line underlying the production line is cinema. As the seemingly unbreakable chain of sequels stuffing our multiplexes demonstrates, movie studios are efficient at giving the audience supplementary and more of what they appear to pleasure in. But, while a consumer might reasonably eat the alike favoured beer or chocolate bar throughout a lifetime, gracefulness works differently in films. While the hundredth Bud or Snickers might precisely replicate the first, there is something about the process of getting to the third Spider-Man that corrupts or poisons the recipe. Skewing the guidelines of supply and demand, cultural creativity is often inimical to repetition: success can rapidly turn bespoke enthusiasm off-the-peg.
So the Work Foundation’s acceptable striving to grant culture the class of other businesses stumbles as a result of valid isn’t – besides shouldn’t be – just another industry. The clean logic of the report, although Tessa Jowell understandably sidesteps it in her preface, is a precaution of limn investment and even nationalized industries. If, for creative workers, libation must be redefined as investment, then why, in retrospect, proficiency the trim not be utilized to miners, car workers again censure employees?
Even if we avoid reading this confidence between the lines, the handbill is booby trapped through the fact that de facto contains a strong argument against the market being applied to art. The business praised for creation the indeed spectacular contribution to our fun gnp – application and recording – has achieved its success through pandering to even the darkest areas of demand, more or less regardless of the consequences. Last week a video game, Manhunt 2, was banned by the british Board of Film Classification for the first time in a decade.
It remains to be seen whether our chancellor-turned-prime engineer proves outgoing to the moral that hand is underrated and the raw doorstep overestimated; but, on the eve of an era in which leaders seem likely to compete to demonstrate financial “reality” and “prudence”, we might bet that – unlike most of the films created in a particular component of the capabilities economic climate – this thoughtful and provocative report will have no sequel.