We were delighted to read, in its submission to DCMS yesterday, that the BBC proposes to have a new public purpose which recognises its role in supporting the UK’s creative industries. Measuring the BBC’s contribution to the creative economy is not straightforward, though in our submission we set out the different ways in which a regulator can do this rigorously.
A new public purpose – which we recommend should be to maximise the BBC’s contribution to the creative economy – is all well and good. But if it is to be effective in guiding the BBC’s priorities and assessing its performance, it needs to be able to be evaluated.
A measurement system should:
- Estimate the BBC’s contribution to value added, and employment, in the creative economy on a strictly consistent basis with other public investments. Happily, since January 2014, the UK has had a rigorous methodology for measuring the creative economy, based on Nesta’s Dynamic Mapping analysis.
- Use micro-metrics to track those impacts on the creative economy which are difficult to capture using conventional economic statistics. In recent weeks, for example, Nesta has published research into how programme credits can be used to track the BBC’s support for creative talent, and how the BBC impacts on technology innovation in the creative economy through its open source software activities. Importantly, regulators need to compare the BBC’s data with other broadcasters to assess its impact.
- Use the tools of public economics, set out in HM Treasury’s Green Book, to measure the contribution of the BBC to economic wellbeing – both through its user value to consumers and its social value to citizens. Luckily, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is publishing a new research report next week, from Nesta in partnership with SImetrica and Prof. Susana Mourato, and in collaboration with Tate Liverpool and the Natural History Museum, which presents best practice in using such techniques in the cultural sector.
A new BBC public purpose calling on the BBC to maximise its contribution to the creative economy would be a major development for the UK. By endorsing it, the Government would be acknowledging the vital public-private mix that is a hallmark of the UK’s creative economy.