It’s time to recognize the creative sector as a leading economic force

June 4, 2012
Posted by: Leslie Wootton

By Liz Shorten, Margaret Reynolds, Bob D’Eith, Sylvia Skene

If you watch TV, go to the movies, play a video game, download music, read a book or magazine, or use a tablet or cellphone, chances are you’ll be touched by one of British Columbia’s creative industries.

It’s big business to be sure – $4 billion a year in B.C. alone, putting it up there with well-recognized industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining.

And therein lies the problem. All of the other above-mentioned industries receive the consideration and assistance they deserve from the public, the media and the government. Most British Columbians acknowledge them as being among our leading industries and prime economic drivers.

B.C.’s creative industries are just as important, but unlike the others, are not given the same level of attention or support. B.C.’s creative sector is, quite frankly, left on the margins when it comes to ensuring that they remain competitive and healthy -and this as the worldwide creative sector is growing and evolving rapidly due to exponential changes in technology. Cassette tapes lasted a couple of decades, but DVDs have come and gone in a blink. Who could have predicted just a few years ago the impact of smart-phones and tablets, and who knows what we’ll be using next year?

But one thing’s for sure: the need for creative content is with us for good. Fortunately, it’s something we’re very good at here in B.C. – but for how long? Although we have some of the world’s best talent, our creative industries must also remain competitive. Other jurisdictions in this country and elsewhere know the score, and are ramping up to compete by making it easier to attract talent and investment dollars away from places like B.C. For example, Ontario just overtook B.C. as North America’s No. 3 film and TV production centre behind New York and Los Angeles.

About 80,000 people in B.C. are employed in the creative sector – more than agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined. We can all name the B.C. musicians we hear on the radio, and we’ve all watched as TV series and films by the score are produced here, often with local talent and production. It’s a clean industry, and there are spinoffs. How many tourists have we attracted to come see “Holly-wood North” for themselves?

Recently, B.C.’s digital media scene was recognized with its own section at the FMX digital effects conference in Germany. B.C. is also home to some of the best periodicals in the country, many of which are read well beyond our borders, and B.C.’s book publishers produce titles in print and digital in all genres that engage and inform readers here at home and around the world. So, although we’ve built a healthy and recognized industry here in B.C., we now find ourselves at a crossroads.

In our recent report, From the Mar-gins to the Mainstream, we make the case that now is the time to develop a made-in-B.C. solution to keep production, investment and talent here. This strategy begins with the establishment of a provincial secretariat that will develop policies in consultation with the private sector, and perhaps an umbrella organization similar to the Ontario Media Development Corporation. It’s a simple model that has worked to give other jurisdictions an edge.

We’ve made the call for the government to work with us to grow our industries, create jobs and maximize the enormous creative potential in this province. We believe they are hearing us, and we look forward to creating a partnership that will work to keep B.C.’s creative sector alive and thriving.

Margaret Reynolds is executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C; Liz Shorten is managing vice-president of the Canadian Media Production Association; Bob D’Eith is executive director of Music B.C; and Sylvia Skene is executive director of the Magazine Association of B.C.

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