Lucy Frazer's speech to the Royal Television Society

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer addresses the Royal Television Society

The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP

Good afternoon, thank you for the introduction Alex.

I thought today, I might share a secret from my past.

When I was about 7 I used to dream about creating and presenting my own TV show.

After school I watched Tony Hart transform Morph on my screen and imagined my future on the TV.

The fact that I was absolutely hopeless at art never appeared to me to be a barrier to my prospective career.

And then, one day, I nearly got my breakthrough.

When I was about 8 I attended a dance class (and i was just as bad at dance as I was art) and the whole class auditioned to be in a TV advert.

Unbelievably I reached the final round.

And my glamorous future flashed in front of me.

But that inevitable tap on the shoulder asking me to leave the stage quickly ended my not yet burgeoning career.

And my dreams of the starry world of film and TV came to a crashing end when I started my law degree.

And I know that millions of people across the country, young and old, share that dream about being involved in what is one of our most exciting and glamorous industries.

And where better a place to have that ambition?

Here in the UK, our TV is genuinely world leading.

And it has been world-leading for years - from the days of four to five channels, to the current all-you-can-eat world of television we’re in now.

Today, in 2023, we produce the best of the best.

Many of the most celebrated shows of this golden era have been made here in the UK, written here in the UK, and shot here in the UK.

Shows like Sex Education, The Crown and Luther that have become huge hits not just in this country, but all over the world.

And with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, many of our great TV shows and formats have spawned remakes all over the world - from Love Island and The Office to Bake Off and Ghosts.

You have created a great environment for our TV excellence.

One which discovers and nurtures outstanding talent.

One where creativity is given licence to flourish, every day.

Everyone should take a quick look at IMDb’s top 100 TV shows voted for by users, 26 were first shown on British screens.

British-produced shows like Peaky Blinders, Chernobyl and David Attenborough’s nature documentaries all featured in the top 10.

Our PSBs have been able to bring the same levels of creativity to their programming as streaming services backed by some of the biggest businesses in the world.

You see in countless programmes from Happy Valley and Unforgotten to Taskmaster and Derry Girls.

Meanwhile companies like Netflix continue to underline the dominance of our TV and film industry in Europe.

Spending $6 billion making TV shows and films in Britain over the past 4 years.

Investment that has given us zeitgeist-defining shows from The Crown and Top Boy to The Tinder Swindler

But despite all this excellence, it would be foolish to ignore the enormous challenges that you all face in remaining competitive.

I know that the ongoing strikes in the US are having a significant impact on many working in the industry in the UK.

The government is committed to our film and high-end TV sector, and we want to ensure that it’s in the best possible position to bounce back once the US strikes are resolved.

At the same time, we know that new technologies are, and will continue to drive changes in users’ habits and impact the market landscape.

You only need to look at a handful of Ofcom’s figures to appreciate the seismic scale of change.

They show the number of TV programmes pulling in 4 million or more viewers has halved since 2014.

They show live programmes, like news shows or soaps, are seeing steep declines in viewer numbers across the board.

They show that TikTok, for the second year in a row, was the fastest-growing source of news in the UK.

We know that Artificial Intelligence is already beginning to transform the way we create and consume media and content.

The Government has an interest in this – because your success is success for our economy, with the jobs and growth you support – and your success is also success for our society, because the content you create helps to entertain, challenge, console, educate.

So it is our job, in Government, to support you to ensure in this changing landscape, we protect, preserve and enhance the existing ecosystem that you have all created here in the UK.

And so I see my role as three fold.

First, Maximising the potential of the creative industries including TV, helping you to grow your revenues, invest and spur growth across the UK.

Secondly, giving you the support you need to navigate this changing world,

And thirdly, ensuring that at all times that we champion media freedoms.

Today’s theme in this conference is about choice.

I see choice as opportunity.

I want to talk about these three priorities within this context, to enable you seize the opportunities that are available.

And I want to expand on those three roles.

So first, potential.

Since I was appointed as your Culture Secretary 7 months ago I have sought to maximise the potential of the creative industries, which includes TV.

In February I worked with the Chancellor to ensure we not only continue the High-End TV tax relief and other creative tax reliefs, but actually increase them, in the form of the new Audio-Visual Expenditure Credit (AVEC).

And, in June, I published our Sector Vision - which is a collaboration with the industry - in particular the Creative Industries Council.

This vision set out our ambition for the creative industries as a whole.

An ambition to grow the sector by £50 billion, create a million new jobs and a pipeline of talent, all by 2030.

And I am now working with the industry to deliver on that commitment.

Through the funding of Creative Industries Clusters across the country like TV in Leeds, gaming in Dundee and Bristol.

Backing innovation in the TV industry - with funding for collaborations like the one between we’ve just announced between the National Television and Film School, Royal Holloway University of London and Pinewood for the development of green screens.

And investing in developing the pipeline of talent, with approval for BRIT School North in Bradford in August, to help us bring through the next Tom Holland or the next Amy Winehouse.

These are just three examples of how we are investing over £300 million since the last Spending Review.

And they build on years of support by the Government.

Building on the tax reliefs that support and incentivise culturally British production, like the high end TV tax relief and the audio visual and cultural reliefs.

Direct funding through initiatives like the Global Screen Fund.

As well as the significant support we gave throughout Covid through the £1.5 billion Culture Recovery Fund and the hugely successful Film and TV Restart Scheme that supported more than 100,000 jobs for cast and crew on more than 1,000 productions.

I am proud that the Government has, for years, recognised the importance of our TV industry.

Secondly as I highlighted we need to make sure you have the framework in which to remain globally competitive in this changing world.

That is why we’re bringing forward the Media Bill, which we have already drafted and consulted on.

This Bill updates the system in which public service broadcasters operate, future proofs it and levels the playing field.

It ensures that we sustain both public service broadcasters and the radio sector.

It does this by making sure public service broadcasters’ apps like BBC iPlayer and ITV X, as well as STV Player in Scotland, the Channel 4 app, My5 and S4C’s Clic in Wales are always easy to find and watch, whether you’re on a smart TV or using a streaming stick.

The way we’ve approached this Bill has been in a consultative fashion, but I do recognise some concerns remain, including about extending content regulation to video on demand services.

But what we are saying is this - is that when you are watching TV, the same rules that apply to a new Channel 4 series or a new Sky documentary should be the ones applied across the board.

The Bill is about ensuring we have the right playing field in place for all parts of the TV ecosystem to thrive.

This is part of our work to help bring TV into the digital age but we recognise there is more to do.

Because we recognise that internet provided TV is growing,

74% of homes now have a smart TV connected to the internet.

And this has spawned hundreds of new, mostly internet-based TV channels which have created yet another innovative way for audiences to enjoy their favourite shows.

But while this shift is an exciting one, it’s our job to look at those channels that fall outside our existing regulations and to make sure people are not left behind by this move to digital.

That’s why we are going to consult on whether we need to extend regulation to these unregulated channels and Electronic Programme Guides. And if so, how?

And, my starting point in looking at this will always be that any change to regulations must strike a balance between protecting people - particularly the young and vulnerable while protecting freedom of speech, and not unduly burdening the TV industry.

I know that this challenge of the move to internet TV is something that you are thinking about with the announcement of Freely earlier this week.

As we focus on the future, our attention must also be on making sure people are not left behind.

Because new ways of consuming TV should not come at the expense of those who still enjoy terrestrial television.

Free to view television is a vitally important part of our television landscape, and this Government wants to encourage the sector to keep embracing innovation and technological development, but we’re not going to pull the rug from under the devoted audiences of Freeview channels.

We want terrestrial television to remain accessible for the foreseeable future.

At the same time, we really want to build a clear picture of what the future of TV looks like.

So today I can confirm that we’re launching a new programme of work on the Future of TV distribution, alongside a call for evidence from Ofcom - which it will publish later in the autumn.

My department will undertake a six-month research project, looking at changing viewing habits and technologies that will impact how shows are brought to our screen, both now, and in the decades to come - acknowledging always the importance of access.

I recognise that the future of TV is not just about pipes and wires, the way it appears on our screens, and how people access it.

We are also working within my department, with industry and with Ofcom to consider the impact of specific new technologies like AI and to shape an evidence base that can guide future policymaking.

It is our job to ensure we strike the right balance between supporting innovation and protecting rights holders.

As part of that, we’re engaging closely with the Intellectual Property Office and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to ensure we strike that right balance.

While it’s clear that AI is a rapidly developing technology, I want to assure you all that one of my priorities is to make sure we protect and maintain the integrity of our high quality news output.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be growing that evidence base with a number of roundtables on AI to discuss what it means for our media and for our creative industries.

And finally, why this is all so important, and that’s because your work retains and enhances our media freedom.

TV is an enormous industry. Together with film it brings in more than £18 billion for the UK economy and supports almost 300,000 jobs across the UK.

It’s an industry that is there to entertain and inform.

But it is also so much more than that.

A television industry which is able to broadcast, to produce and distribute fearless truth telling in its news, uncomfortable issues in its documentaries, or produce dramas that highlight challenging real life issues.

Is one that reveals behind it a strong democracy that is the mark of a free country.

We all know the playbook in countries that are not free.

The first thing a dictator does is take control of the airwaves.

Because these leaders know that if you succeed in stifling universal debate, you can control the narrative.

That is why you’re all so important to our present, and to our future.

Media freedom is central to our values as a country, and to mine as your Culture Secretary.

And that is partly why I’ve always enjoyed watching the political dramas that you make - whether that is House of Cards, the Politicians Wife, Road Kill, The Diplomat - A Very British Scandal.

They are all so brilliant.

And I don’t even mind that all these programmes often have as their theme a Tory politician, always unscrupulous, who inevitably ends up booted out of office, in prison or dead.

Because that is one of the things that makes our country great.

The freedom you have to make programmes.

I should say that I have noticed in most of these there is a female heroine, often political (sometimes a lawyer), who always outwits the men.

Which is probably the real reason I have enjoyed them all.

Now, before I close, I do want to address the serious allegations that came to light over the weekend concerning Russell Brand.

Those allegations are deeply shocking and it’s right that the police are encouraging anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a sexual offence to come forward.

It’s also right that organisations involved in his employment conduct transparent investigations into whether complaints were made or concerns raised - and what action, if any, was taken.

The nature of these allegations means it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, but I do want to briefly touch on the wider culture within our film and TV industry.

This is an industry that young people - like 7 year old me - grow up dreaming of working in.

One where the sky’s the limit for talent.

It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that this industry is synonymous with talent, opportunity and inclusivity - not the scandals of MeToo.

TV studios, production facilities and offices need to be places where people feel safe.

Places where working cultures are responsible and accountable, and do not allow for possible abuses of power.

Places where everyone feels able to speak up, no matter how junior, and where leaders never turn a blind eye.

I would urge all of you, as leaders in your industry, to look hard at the cultures and processes in your own organisations and lead change, if change is needed.

But I’d like to finish properly by thanking you all for the work you’ve done, to build not just a world class TV industry, but a world-leading one.

It is a testament to your talent, your ingenuity, and your commitment.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor have identified the creative industries as one of the 5 priority sectors of growth which we will focus on as a government.

And you’re an essential part of that.

We want to work with you not just to retain our position but to build on it.

And I as your Culture Secretary promise to be your champion in Government to support you to maximise your potential and thrive in this changing landscape.

And I look forward to doing that with you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP