The UK Government is often held up by creative industries proponents around the world as one of leaders in creative industries policy, having been the first to assemble a Creative Industries Taskforce, and now has a Minister of Creative Industries.

Yet in a report by independent think-tank Demos, the government has been labeled as “confused” for not understanding how the creative industries work, which has created “confusion, indifference, and irritation”.

An article in by Branwell Johnson reports on Demos’ report:

Demos argues that the standard approaches designed for traditional industries will not work with the creative sector. It points out that firms in this sector typically have less than 10 workers and rely on freelance activity.

…success in these companies is based on quality rather than volume and that they produce “highly specialised products and services.”

Quality is of course a relative term. And quite possibly misunderstood and paid too much lipservice.

What strikes me about many sectors of creative industries, particularly those that face strict deadlines imposed by broadcasters or other large ‘gate-keepers’ that distribute audiovisual content in particular, is that quality often takes a backseat to completion.

I have been quite surprised to find this even in the animation sector in Japan, which is often looked on by outsiders as the world leader on animated entertainment. It would appear that there is a vast amount of fairly low quality content that exists due to demands from broadcasters and publishers. A large number of these animators themselves, having ‘sacrificed’ a better paying job (or a job at McDonalds) for something that they ‘love’, no doubt feel frustrated that their efforts become more about deadlines than about a ‘work of art’ they can take pride in.

Demos would like to see support for the creative sector devolved from government and related agencies to where these industries work; access to potential employees, collaborators, mentors, knowledge and finance through online resources and networks and industry brokers and agencies that provide local knowledge and sector-specific expertise and places to share ideas.

In essence, is the report simply asking government to leave business get to the business of business? Or is it suggesting the government should front up with funds and pass it to the industry who ‘know what to do with it’?

Regardless, it raises the key question regarding the limits of government policy in directing and supporting industry in general, and the creative industry in particular. Should governments be doing anymore than providing access to education, robust institutional (including legal) frameworks, and maximising economic and political freedom?

The Demos report entitled So what do you know? is due to be launched on 19 June 2007.