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On Tuesday 9 February, PICTFOR hosted their first event of the year on the Evolution of Online Entertainment, titled: What role can the sector play in helping policy makers embrace the evolution of entertainment, celebrating its positive influence and mitigating its negative impacts?


The session featured insights from Shadow DCMS Secretary, Lucy Powell MP, CEO of Ukie, Dr Jo Twist, Director of Research and PGR (Media, Journalism and Film) at Huddersfield University, Professor Catherine Johnson and Director of Government Relations and Public Policy at TikTok, Liz Kanter. The event was chaired by PICTFOR Vice-Chair and Chair of the Video Games and Esports APPG, Alex Sobel MP.


Please see below for minutes of the session.


PICTFOR Vice-Chair and Chair of the Video Games and Esports APPG, Alex Sobel MP kicked-off proceedings with opening remarks on the global evolution of online entertainment and the reducing delineation between the different forms of media. He also touched on the growing use of virtual and augmented reality across the sector and the greater need for regulation and legislation to match the advancements within the industry. He closed by noting the perennial issue of age-appropriate content and the positives and negatives of representation within video games.


CEO of Ukie, Dr Jo Twist offered a perspective from the gaming industry, detailing its major role in redefining entertainment and entertainment experiences, as well as its contribution to the UK’s economic and levelling up ambitions. She explained how games can be used for therapy and learning, and how they are played by people of all ages, with the fastest growing gaming demographic being women over forty-years old. She also noted the importance of streaming to the industry, with trillions of minutes of content being viewed on Twitch last year alone. She stressed the importance of policymakers understanding that gaming, as the largest entertainment sector in the world, is here to stay, while emphasising its positive role during the pandemic. Looking forward, she noted that while the sector has a history of self-regulation, adding that ultimately online safety is all about education, and providing young people with the knowledge to protect themselves in the ever-expanding virtual world.


Director of Research and PGR at Huddersfield University, Professor Catherine Johnson drew on two ongoing research projects that were taking place at the University of Huddersfield. The first, Routes to Content explored how people find and discover audio-visual content, examining the integration of streaming into people’s habitual viewing habits. She explained how the research demonstrated that the majority of people found their content using internet connected devices while also showing that public service content is less visible and harder to find. She suggested that rather than seeing public service media as a problem to be solved with the rise of streaming platforms, we could actually see it as a solution to address the rise of platform power. The second project, Create a Maker is the first attempt to try and map the sector that creates content for social media sites in the UK, with a specific focus on inclusion and equality in the workforce. She closed with two recommendations for the sector to help policy makers: the first being to make relevant data more readily available to the regulator and the second being to work more closely with universities that are undertaking research into these issues.


Director of Government Relations and Public Policy at TikTok, Liz Kanter focused on how the evolution of the entertainment industry is breaking down barriers to creativity and culture. She pointed out how TikTok, as a newer entry to the industry, has challenged what it means to be creative by allowing anyone to find an audience for their particular passion or ability. She detailed how TikTok’s responsibility to the arts has led them to partnering with organisations such as the Royal Shakespeare company to improve access to tickets for young people from deprived areas. She stressed the importance of being an inclusive space to TikTok’s mission, with the flexibility and creativity of the platform representing the future of the entertainment industry. She remarked on the sector at large, stating that entertainment is no longer a one-way process and that platforms like TikTok are tearing down the traditional barriers to the creative industries. She ended by noting Tiktok’s role in preserving and protecting the UK’s proud creative past.


Shadow DCMS Secretary, Lucy Powell MP began by observing the fast-changing nature of the industry in policy terms, moving at a pace often beyond that of the policy world. She noted that the role of policymakers is to strike a balance between limiting the problems and challenges within the industry while also not diminishing the opportunities created by any new advances. She pointed out that there are real opportunities created by the extra investment from streaming giants, while also remarking that she still believed there is strong role for public service broadcasting to play in the UK. She stated that there are still important conversations to be had about how people in the entertainment industry are renumerated and recognised, as well as on issues surrounding broadcast regulation and age-appropriateness. She closed by emphasising again the opportunities that exist within the industry, while also warning that we need to ensure that the existing policy framework is fair for all.


You can catch up on the entire event below.

If you would like further information on this topic or about PICTFOR’s programme of events, please get in touch!

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