Category: News

All Party Parliamentary Writers Group elects officers and sets agenda for the year

On the 23rd February, the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) was pleased to hold its Annual General Meeting with the group electing its Officers for the coming year. To support Giles Watling MP as Chair, the Earl of Clancarty and Lord Balfe newly joined as Vice Chairs.

The group reviewed the past year and the work it has been doing to ensure that writers have had a voice during the pandemic. In November, the APWG felt it necessary to hold a supplementary inquiry session which built on the work of the Authors’ Earnings report in 2019 by pinpointing exactly how COVID-19 has impacted writers abilities to earn a living.

The APWG invited witnesses who ranged from writers themselves, such as Dawn Finch who is a children’s author, to representatives from groups such as the Society of Authors. The predominant message to come out of the session was the insecurity felt by most in the creative sector who, due to the nature of their work, have found their typical income streams disappear. The panel included Group Chair Giles Watling MP, Vice-Chairs Pete Wishart MP and Lord Clement-Jones who were engaged on the topic and have been pushing hard in other roles such as on the DCMS committee to communicate with the Government on the true impact of the pandemic on creators.

It was also agreed what priorities should be the focus for the coming year and how best to push forward with a clear agenda for writers. It was decided that concentrating on forming a Creators council will be important for the recovery of the Creative sector as it will be necessary to have a clear channel of communication and understanding with the Government going forward. The APWG will carry on its work pushing for an increase to the overall Public Lending Right fund which has remained stagnant for many years and provides the Government with a perfect opportunity to fairly support authors and remunerate them for their vital work. Finally, the group will look to engage more closely with the levelling-up agenda through its regional powerhouse project which will focus on how to improve access to the writing field across England.

Commenting on the coming work of the group, Group Chair Giles Watling MP said:

“Writers and creators have proved vital to our society in the past year providing much needed entertainment and escape during the pandemic through books and shows. It is imperative that we carry out this work as a group to ensure we secure the much needed support authors deserve through our various projects”

The elected officers for the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group are as follows:

Pete Wishart MP

Lord Tim Clement-Jones

Bob Stewart MP

Juliet Elliott MP

Andrew Lewer MP

Baroness Floella Benjamin

Lord Alf Dubs

Earl of Clancarty

Lord Balfe

All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group confirms Giles Watling MP as its Chair

On 9 September, the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) met to confirm Giles Watling MP as its Chair. Mr Watling took over as Acting Chair of the group after Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP left the position to become Minister for Media and Data within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

Mr Watling has a long interest in the creative industries with a background in the performing arts, primarily as an actor. He has also run theatres, produced shows, has written for film and television and has been a director for the commercial touring circuit. In Parliament, he continues to champion the arts and joined the All-Party Parliamentary Writers Group to ensure writers’ rights are recognised and rewarded. Before becoming its Chair, Mr Watling took a key role in the APWG inquiry into authors’ earnings; the report of which urged the Government to establish a ‘Creators’ Council’, provide ongoing support for the creative industries upon withdrawal from the European Union and to support high-street booksellers.

Looking at the priorities for the group, Mr Watling said:

“Our inquiry into authors’ earnings showed that the UK’s excellent creators faced a difficult situation even before the impact of COVID-19, which is expected to have a major effect on our creative industries. We made suggestions to the Government that were necessary then and we must see where these measures are urgently needed to ensure our creators and creative industries can continue to succeed through these difficult times. We also hope to look at opportunities to ensure the interests of authors are represented across the country. Too often opportunities in the creative industries are tied to London even though creative talent is found across the country and as it stands, too many communities are left out and opportunities are missed.

I have been involved with this group for some time, and I am pleased to have been confirmed as Chair. This is a well-supported and established group in Parliament, that does some excellent work. I will continue to push the Government on support for writers and the wider creative arts.”

DCMS Select Committee Calls for Creators Council

As part of its ongoing inquiry, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has released its Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report.

Among other measures this report calls for the establishment of a Creators Council. The APWG called for a Creators Council to be established in Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow, its report into authors earnings.

Authors organisations have welcomed the DCMS Select Committee report.

Commenting on the DCMS Select Committee report, ALCS Deputy Chief Executive Barbara Hayes said:

“We are very pleased to see that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has included the establishment of a ‘Creators Council’ in its recommendations to Government. A ‘Creators Council’ would be an important channel to ensure the Government hears from the UK’s brilliant creators and their representatives and draws on their experience to ensure good policy for our culture and creative industries.

Before the pandemic, studies had shown authors’ incomes are in decline, and evidence shows declining incomes would harm the variety and diversity of works created across our country. It is clear from the evidence presented so far that the pandemic could make this situation even more severe, so we welcome the committee’s calls for targeted measures to support the UK’s creative community. With better policy, we can ensure the UK’s authors are fairly rewarded for their contribution to society.”

Writers Guild of Great Britain General Secretary Ellie Peers said:

“The bleak picture that this report paints comes as no surprise – since the earliest days of lockdown our members have been telling us about the devastating effect of the Covid-19 lockdown on their income and livelihoods.

“We are pleased to see that DCMSC has listened to WGGB, our sister trade unions and other industry bodies, in some of its key recommendations to Government, and we welcome the proposed extension and expansion of SEISS to ensure no creative is left behind; a Creators Council to represent the freelance creative workforce at Government level via their creative trade unions and other member organisations; a proper roadmap for the reopening of arts venues; and fiscal measures such as tax relief and VAT exemptions to support the theatre sector, whose lights went dark almost overnight with little notice or indication of how they might come back on again.

“We look forward to working with Government on the detail of all these proposals. We will continue to campaign for the establishment of a New Commissions Fund in theatre – even when venues reopen and postponed productions are performed. A dedicated commissions fund is needed now to enable theatres/producers across the UK, who are likely to have become more risk averse, to continue to commission new, original work from writers.”

Regarding its submission to the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry, Society of Authors Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said: 

“This is another really detailed report addressing the needs of publishing, theatre, music and film as we move towards what we all hope will be a period of sustained economic recovery.

“As further details of trade talks with the EU, Australia and the US emerge, I am pleased to see us renew calls for maintenance of world-leading intellectual property standards so that creative professionals can earn a proper living from their work.

“I hope that MPs of all parties will put pressure on the Government to support our cultural and creative industries, and to come forward with further details of how it intends to divide up its £1.57 bn stimulus package as soon as possible.

“I also hope that we can continue to work with ALCS and others in pushing for the Government to be bold in its Autumn spending review so that any ongoing needs across the cultural and creative industries – and among the freelance and self-employed creatives who are so vital to them support – are meaningfully addressed.”

Creators organisations write to Government calling for a UK Creators Council

Summer Reception and APWG Authors’ Earnings Report Launched

Writers, MPs and Lords attended the House of Commons launch of a report by the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group (APWG) which calls for immediate action to reverse a steep decline in writers’ incomes.

The annual APWG Summer Reception at the House of Commons centred on the launch of Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow. This report, the result of our Inquiry into Authors’ Earnings, makes recommendations to the Government based on evidence given to the Inquiry by a wide range of professional working writers, as well as industry bodies.

Writers attending the APWG Summer Reception included Anthony McGowan, Eley Williams, Abir Mukherjee, and 2018 Man Booker Prize winner, Anna Burns. They heard Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Chair of the APWG (pictured left), launch the report by thanking all those who gave evidence to the Inquiry, including the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the Association of Authors’ Agents, Hachette UK, the Society of Authors, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, the Publishers Association, as well as ALCS.

Mr Whittingdale continued: “What the report recognises is the importance of writing. Our creative industries continue to be enormously successful and underlying their success in almost every case are writers. Without writers we could not be as successful as we are. And yet it causes us concern that while our creative industries are continuing to thrive, authors earnings have been falling.”

Mr Whittingdale went on to state the APWG’s commitment to a robust copyright regime, to funding intervention from the Government where necessary, and to the equal treatment of printed and ebooks; including the abolition of VAT on ebooks. “A tax on books in any form is deeply regrettable,” he said. Other desirable measures in support of writers would include the creation of a Creators’ Council; addressing issues around diversity including the North-South divide; a review of tax and benefit rules; and support for independent bookshops.

Rebecca Pow MP, the newly appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism (pictured right) and herself an author, also spoke at the launch. Commenting on the report launch she said: “I was particularly interested to come along today because my background is as a journalist and broadcaster focused on farming, rural affairs and gardening. And I so know it’s tougher and tougher for writers to make a living, and I understand the challenges that authors face. I also don’t need any convincing about the importance of writers and the position they hold in society.” She paid tribute to the likes of the Public Lending Right scheme, which this year celebrates its 40th birthday, and Arts Council England in supporting a diverse writing profession.

Supporting the Writers of Tomorrow is available to download here. The recommendations we offer are designed to ensure better support for authors, while also improving government engagement with creators; protecting the success of the UK publishing industry beyond Brexit; and ensuring fairness in the bookselling market.

Our recommendations to the Government include:

  1. the adoption of new copyright rules proposed in the recently passed EU copyright directive
  2. the protection and promotion of the UK’s existing, effective copyright system
  3. the establishment of a Creators’ Council to look at a variety of issues including diversity
  4. a reduction in the rate of VAT on ebooks
  5. a review of the tax and benefit rules for authors
  6. the creation of a ‘level playing field’ between high-street and online booksellers.

We urge all MPs and Peers to urge action from the Government on these points, if you would require any assistance to do so please contact us

The contribution made to the UK economy by the creative industries, which now employ 1 in 11 working people, continues to grow and is valued at £101.6 billion. However, the most recent piece of research undertaken on behalf of ALCS by CREATe, University of Glasgow, shows that writers’ earnings have fallen by 42% in real terms since 2005.

In addition, the 2018 ALCS survey showed that female authors earn around 25% less than their male counterparts, a discrepancy that results both from lower rates of pay and a poorer breadth of opportunities, particularly in film and television.

Contributors to the Inquiry also raised concerns that a decline in authors’ earnings could discourage new writers from taking up the profession, exacerbating the lack of diversity in the publishing and creative industries. Figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport show that 92.5% of workers in the creative industries and digital sector come from more advantaged social groups, compared with 67.3% for the general UK workforce.

Photographs © Nikki Powell

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