UK government shuffles games industry role

Responsibility for the computer games industry in the UK has been transferred from the department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), alongside policy of broadband delivery and internet policy.

In a statement to the Commons from PM David Cameron it was announced that the shift would occur as Ed Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, would no longer hold joint ministerial responsibilities at both departments, moving the policy portfolio over to DCMS.

“Responsibility for all competition and policy issues relating to media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms sectors has been transferred from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport,” the statement read.

The statement said that this means areas such as “computer games and publishing” would be affected by the transfer to DCMS.  Other policy areas concerned include “sponsorship of the telecoms sector, mobile and fixed; telecoms policy, including implementation of the EU framework; broadband policy and delivery (including Broadband Delivery UK); and internet policy and governance, including implementation of the Digital Economy Act.”

The announcement came before a speech by the shadow Labour Minister, Ivan Lewis, who argued that the coalition had thus far neglected the responsibility to push forward the creative industry policies in a coherent way:

“The Conservative led Government has said repeatedly that it views the creative industries as a key driver of jobs and growth however every signal they are sending the industry is to the contrary. Not only has there been no growth strategy but there has also been a total lack of leadership.”

Lewis also  argued that having stripped Vince Cable of his responsibilities for media policy there is still little clarity on how the transfer of civil servants and key departmental areas of responsibility will work in practice.

Speaking to BIS TechEye was told that the move would not affect the focus on the promotion of the UK games industry. “We have always worked closely with DCMS so this is really just a transfer of skills, it won’t mean that the games industry is any less of a priority. The industry will continue to be supported in the push for growth.”

DCMS also said that the move was entirely due to the  “machinery of government”, and would not necessarily mean any imminent changes to policy or services, as Vaizey would continue to keep the industry at the top of the government’s agenda.

“The Minister will continue in his responsibilities as Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, as it is the same portfolio which will continue to be worked on,” Techeye was told.

“Since starting as a Minister he has been very active in his support of areas such as the games industry.  Representatives from the games industry recently came to discuss development of skill with the Minister, and he will continue to be highly active in this support.”

A Whitehall source told TechEye that in terms of political sway with other departments, such as influence with the Treasury, there is little difference in whether the games industry is under the banner of BIS or DCMS in terms of authority in cabinet meetings.

TechEye was told however that, though this movement could simply be due to DCMS just having more capacity after high profile cuts to services such as the Film Council, the move is unlikely to give positive signals that the games industry is at the top of the agenda in a business sense as a growing industry.