Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors: First Report Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.The many and varied sectors under the remit of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are integral to the UK’s national life and identity, as well as being vital drivers of economic growth and employment. Yet many parts of these sectors face an existential threat due to Covid-19 and the continued uncertainty that accompanies it. (Paragraph 4)


2.We are concerned that a lack of confidence, and a fear of being in close proximity with people from outside their own household, will affect people’s return to group sports, particularly those that take place indoors (such as indoor exercise classes), those that require physical contact (such as rugby), and those that require participants to be in close proximity for extended periods of time (such as rowing). We support requests from the sport sector for clear and effective public messaging from the Government to ensure people feel safe returning to group physical activity. To help to get the UK moving again, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should fund advertisements, based on the ‘This Girl Can’ model, using realistic content about how to get back to exercise without fear. In the medium-to-long term, we recommend that DCMS establishes a fund to invest specifically in helping those people whose activity levels have been adversely affected by the lockdown restrictions—including older people, BAME people, disabled people, women, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those unable to access physical activity content online—to ensure that the progress that was being made in physical activity levels within these groups is not set back by Covid-19. (Paragraph 11)

3.The cessation of community sport countrywide during lockdown has hit under-represented groups the hardest. While we welcome the announcement that some recreational sports teams can now resume play, we are concerned about gyms and leisure centres. These facilities act as community hubs, often providing subsidised facilities to those who most need them, but have been the last sport sector to re-open. Following huge levels of uncertainty, it is essential that leisure facilities are protected and have the funds to ensure that the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures can be put in place to re-open fully. The worst outcome would be for local authority funding shortfalls to translate into leisure centre closures; if this were to happen, the Government would risk abrogating its own 2015 Sport Strategy commitment to increase participation in sport by under-represented groups. DCMS’s Sport Working Group must work with local councils to ensure necessary funding is in place to preserve leisure centre facilities. This must be done with urgency so that leisure centres are fully operational in August to provide crucial fitness opportunities for children during the school holidays. (Paragraph 15)

4.We recognise the importance of ‘horizon-scanning’ work to ensuring people maintain and increase their activity levels, which in turn will boost their resilience to the virus. However, smaller organisations are unlikely to have the resources available to collect data, analyse it and then act on that insight. We believe that Sport England is in the best position to continue this work. We call on DCMS to provide Sport England with the necessary resources for it to prioritise data collection, so that long-term indicators can be developed to help the sports sector better understand the needs of its audiences. (Paragraph 17)

5.With no clear messaging from the Government about when spectators can expect to return to sporting events, we support calls from elite sports organisations for the Government to extend its financial assistance for those organisations that are unable to generate revenue until mass gatherings are permitted. We recommend that DCMS works with HM Treasury to identify organisations within the professional sport sector that remain unable to generate revenue until mass gatherings are permitted again, and to ensure that the systems that have helped them survive the crisis thus far, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the VAT and PAYE deferral period, are extended beyond the current cut-off dates, and backdated where they have already come to an end (such as the VAT payments deferral scheme). (Paragraph 22)

6.The current football business model is not sustainable. The Covid-19 crisis has shone a stark light on the financial issues within football, specifically in the leagues below the Premier League. The Premier League is the main income generator of English football. If it does not step up to help the English Football League, many more clubs will follow in Bury FC’s footsteps. The EFL needs also to ensure it develops a more sustainable financial model. (Paragraph 27)

7.We firmly believe that football must use its response to the Covid-19 crisis to ‘reset’. The crisis has shone a light on the culture of unfair pay in football. The decision by some Premier League clubs to furlough non-playing staff was deplorable, and we welcomed its reversal. Parachute payments must become a thing of the past, and considerable work must be done to advance work on salary caps. DCMS should engage with the Premier League and the EFL to learn lessons from abroad on policies such as salary caps, which may seem radical to those inside UK football, but seem to work well elsewhere. (Paragraph 32)

8.Football must also become more representative. The fact that no Premier League club and virtually no English Football League club has a black owner, Chair or chief executive, is a fundamental inequality at the heart of the game. We do not believe that the voluntary initiative proposed by the FA will motivate clubs to act with sufficient speed. Instead, we recommend that DCMS revises the Code for Sport Governance, adding targets for BAME representation on boards. We also wish to record our dismay at the slow progress in kicking out homophobia from football. It is crucial that everyone involved in the game is clear about the remaining barriers to players coming out. The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to improve a number of areas within football, and to this end we will continue to pursue opportunities in this Parliament to introduce legislation outlawing homophobic chanting at matches. (Paragraph 33)

9.The lack of visibility of women’s sport this summer risks undoing work to improve funding for women’s elite sport. Cancellation of women’s events is likely to reduce the number of women being inspired to take part in sporting activities. In its response to this report, the Government should outline how it intends to support women’s sport post-crisis and ensure that, going forward, men’s elite sports are not further prioritised at the expense of the women’s game. (Paragraph 36)

Culture and the Creative Industries

10.The Department should investigate how the market for recorded music is operating in the era of streaming to ensure that music creators are receiving a fair reward. (Paragraph 44)

11.The Covid-19 crisis presents the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure, institutions and workforce in a generation. The loss of performing arts institutions, and the vital work they do in communities by spreading the health and education benefits of cultural engagement, would undermine the aims of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and Arts Council England’s next 10-year strategy, and reverse decades of progress in cultural provision and diversity and inclusion that we cannot afford to lose. In addition to the emergency funding already announced, the performing arts need a sector-specific recovery deal that includes continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies; clear, if conditional, timelines for reopening, and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing; and long-term structural support to rebuild audience figures and investment in time of economic uncertainty. (Paragraph 51)

12.The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme have been a lifeline for all those in the creative industries who have been eligible for them. However, the closure of the schemes in October and the fact too many self-employed people have missed out on support to date, means the future of our creative workforce remains at significant risk. From October 2020 at the latest, the Government should introduce flexible, sector specific versions of the CJRS and SEISS guaranteed for the creative industries until their work and income returns to sustainable levels. Any such measures should account for the differences in timeframes for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the four nations. Support for the self-employed, in particular, should be urgently reviewed and amended so that it covers people who have been excluded to date. The Treasury Committee’s report, ‘Economic impact of coronavirus: Gaps in support’, proposed practical solutions for how this might be achieved, which we endorse. (Paragraph 56)

13.We welcome the Government’s commitment to provide £1.57 billion in funding for our cultural and heritage sectors; however, whether it is enough to safeguard the cultural sector will ultimately depend on how long institutions remain closed or subject to social distancing, and we are concerned that freelancers and small companies will continue to fall through the gaps of Government support. It is also regrettable that it took so long for the package to be announced, as the uncertainty inevitably led to closures and redundancies in the cultural sector that might otherwise have been avoided. (Paragraph 59)

14.The Government must learn from the shortcomings of previous support schemes, including those for charities and self-employed people, to ensure this package is tailored to the unique characteristics of the cultural sector and its workers, and reaches them promptly. The Government must recognise the interconnected nature of the cultural sector and should not restrict support to well established, high profile, institutions: it is essential that cultural freelancers and small companies in the creative industries supply chain are also eligible for direct support. To reduce uncertainty, the Government must publish eligibility criteria and application guidance as soon as possible, and ensure that the funding reaches recipients no later than October 2020. (Paragraph 60)

15.To further combat the negative effects of closure, and to stimulate long-term recovery, the Government should introduce other fiscal measures. We recommend the cut in VAT on ticket sales for theatre and live music be extended beyond January 2021, for the next three years. The Government should increase Theatre Tax Relief to 50% for the next three years and broaden the definition of ‘core expenditure’ in line with the industry’s proposals. It should introduce a Music Tax Relief, modelled on existing reliefs such as the Orchestra Tax Relief. The Government should also develop a system to save ‘Assets of Cultural Value’ along the lines of the regime for ‘Assets of Community Value’. This would allow a moratorium on the sale of a building while stakeholders seek an alternative bidder to maintain the asset as a cultural business. The Government should also build on recent ‘Agent of Change’ planning reform to protect cultural assets by tightening planning regulations around change of use from venues or music studios to residential and other developments. (Paragraph 64)

16.Lessons must be learnt from Arts Council England’s emergency funding when it comes to distributing the additional Government support. Support cannot be limited to organisations with a track record of public funding. Although recipients must be able to demonstrate they will use public monies appropriately, such a restrictive criterion risks excluding vital parts of the cultural ecology, including whole sectors that have historically had less engagement with funding bodies such as contemporary music, circus and amateur theatre. In allocating additional sector funding, the Government must ensure support reaches cultural sectors and institutions that are in need, irrespective of whether they have previously received subsidy. It must also ensure an equitable distribution of cultural resources across all parts of the UK—north and south, rural and urban—and support for BAME and disabled artists and audiences. (Paragraph 68)

17.Since lockdown began, we and many others in the cultural sector have been warning DCMS about the challenges of resuming live performance. The £1.57 billion of support from Government will only tide the cultural sector over for so long and will not be sufficient to compensate for a loss of the Christmas season. The Cultural Renewal Taskforce has been slow to demonstrate meaningful progress. The fact it was only established two months after lockdown means valuable planning time for the return of live performance has been lost. Moreover, telling venues they can reopen with just a few days’ or weeks’ notice does not address the lead times for performance, the challenges of social distancing or the concerns about audience behaviours. To provide more certainty and allow for forward planning the Government should, no later than 1 August, publish ‘no earlier than’ dates for stage 5 of its plan to reopen performing arts venues. (Paragraph 76)

18.We are concerned that innovative technology-based solutions are being explored across the theatre, sports and festivals sectors without full collaboration between them. This is exactly the issue the Cultural Renewal Taskforce was set up to address. The Cultural Renewal Taskforce must co-ordinate cross-sector work on technological solutions for mass gatherings, ensuring the sports and entertainment sectors work together, alongside NHS Test and Trace, to develop a universal, technological solution to enable the safe return of ticket holders to events. (Paragraph 77)

19.Government must address the urgent need for the UK’s cultural industries to be covered by adequate insurance. Without it, efforts to resume filming, touring and live performance are doomed to failure. Alongside working with the insurance industry to introduce a long-term pandemic reinsurance scheme, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should establish an emergency fund to guarantee coverage for TV and film productions, stage productions, concerts and tours interrupted or abandoned due to Covid-19. (Paragraph 79)


20.The issue of quarantine periods is beyond our remit, so we will limit our comments to saying that the timing and guidance about quarantining have been far from clear. Whilst we understand that there was considerable uncertainty around how the pandemic developed internationally, the tourism sector was in limbo for over two months with no certainty as to whether an international visitor market would exist for the rest of 2020. As of July 2020, the Government has announced a list of ‘low risk’, exempt countries from quarantining on arrival in England. We wholeheartedly support calls for the Department for Culture Media and Sport to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Transport to clearly communicate information about international travel agreements to the tourism sector, including the science behind the decisions and the plans for reviewing the effectiveness of the agreements. (Paragraph 83)

21.International tourism to the UK had halved by April 2020 and has continued to decline. Visitor attractions, including museums and galleries, are being hit hard as a result. Not only are these organisations facing an end to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in October, they have also largely depleted their financial reserves and are looking at the prospect of only being able to open at a reduced capacity with social distancing measures in place. Losing these important spaces, and the valuable collections they hold, would be a significant loss to our cultural identity. To secure collections at risk from museum insolvencies, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should introduce a temporary change to legislation to ensure that if an accredited museum becomes insolvent as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the institution’s collections cannot be liquidated for financial assets for the first 12 months. (Paragraph 88)

22.Seasonal workers in the tourism industry are falling between the cracks in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We recommend that DCMS works with the tourism sector and HM Treasury to review the measures in place to support tourism businesses and seasonal workers to ensure they fully meet the needs of the sector. We repeat the recommendation first made in our report on ‘The Covid-19 crisis and charities’ that the Government revisit the terms of the furlough scheme in its final few months to allow for greater flexibility for staff to volunteer their time back to their organisations. (Paragraph 95)

23.The capacity constraints that arise from the requirements of social distancing make yield management and smoothing out demand more important than ever. The Eat Out to Help Out programme will help shift some demand to trough days. Doubtless attractions, transport providers and lodgings will re-examine their own promotional programmes to maximise yield in these circumstances, and where relevant, attractions will look at their opening hours/days. DCMS needs to go further in supporting work to reduce the seasonality of the UK tourism industry. This will matter next year, as well as in 2020, due to the problem of booking deferrals and concomitant loss of income for a second year in a row. In its response to this report, DCMS should set out its plans for supporting an extension of the holiday season. As a matter of urgency, DCMS should introduce a Tourism Data Hub to assess visitor intention for 2021 so that the industry can plan ahead for next year. (Paragraph 96)

24.Tourism is an incredibly important force within the UK economy; however, it is more than just the sum of its parts, and it demonstrates vital links to culture, heritage and environmental work. Moreover, tourism is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, and the prospect of some time away from home has, we are sure, been a beacon of hope for many people during the lockdown period. We urge DCMS to launch a national campaign to restore consumer confidence in the domestic UK holiday market. If done quickly, there is still time to boost the end of the summer—plus the autumn and 2021—market. Such a campaign will be hugely beneficial in assisting the tourism industry in clawing back some of the business it has lost during the lockdown period and will help to fill the hole left by the sharp decrease in international visitors to the UK. (Paragraph 98)

The role of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

25.Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, vulnerable people across the country have suffered as a result of being excluded from digital services and communication. Yet initiatives to tackle the issue, such as the DevicesDotNow campaign, have been limited by a lack of both direct and charitable funding. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s commitment to tackling digital exclusion and co-ordinating work on it across Government urgently needs to be supported by adequate resource from HM Treasury. (Paragraph 105)

26.We commend the work done by cultural and fitness organisations, both before and during the Covid-19 crisis, to move access to content and facilities online. In the immediate future, DCMS should work with HM Treasury to develop a data voucher scheme, to give those with limited access to the internet due to financial constraints the ability to access online cultural and physical activity content. (Paragraph 107)

27.While we welcome Ofcom’s focus on affordability of broadband services, and the measures introduced across the telecoms industry to make websites and mobile data available to those who need it during the Covid-19 outbreak, more needs to be done to support all those experiencing data poverty, and particularly pay-as-you-go users. The Government and Ofcom should work with telecommunications companies to facilitate data gifting and wi-fi sharing. Ofcom’s work on affordability of internet connectivity should also tackle the poverty premium associated with pay-as-you-go mobile services. (Paragraph 109)

28.The Government has been too slow to respond to the needs of the sectors under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s remit during the Covid-19 outbreak. In its response, DCMS has been hampered by its overall spending power, a lack of robust data on ineligibility for support and a fundamental misunderstanding across Government of the needs, structures and vital social contribution of sectors such as the creative industries. (Paragraph 114)

29.The Cultural Renewal Taskforce and working groups demonstrate a worrying lack of diversity of representation. To ensure that sectors remain accessible to all as they reopen, it is essential that all decisions and proposals by the Cultural Renewal Taskforce and its working groups are accompanied by full equality impact assessments and monitoring. (Paragraph 115)

30.Forming a ‘Creators Council’ could boost confidence across the sector and ensure its views are represented at a time when many of the creative industries workforce are struggling to stay in the sector. We recommend that DCMS forms a Creators Council as a mechanism for better dialogue with the creative workforce to understand its needs and viewpoints as we emerge from this crisis. (Paragraph 116)

Published: 23 July 2020