How influential are the UK’s media exports?

The media industry includes film, television programmes, books, magazines, plays and video games. The government estimates that the UK’s media industry is worth more than £63 billion a year, generating £70,000 per minute for the UK economy. Around 1.7 million people are employed in this industry (2012) and it accounts for £1 in every £10 of UK exports.

Examples of UK media exports :

  • Image result for downton abbeyTV series e.g. Downton Abbey, which is watched by over 120 million people in more than 100 countries including the USA and China. One of the UK’s most successful exports is television programmes. In 2013-14 they accounted for over £128 billion a year of export earnings. The main markets are English speaking countries such as the USA however, the Chinese market is now expanding rapidly.
  • TV reality shows e.g. X Factor UK, which is watched by over 360 million people in 147 countries, and 51 countries have produced their own version.
  • Films: UK films are distributed worldwide but are most popular in New Zealand, Australia and Europe e.g. The King’s Speech made over US$400 million at the box office with approximately 2/3 of that amount being made outside the UK.
  • Music: UK artists make up almost 14% of global album sales each year. The biggest three selling artists in 2015 were Adele, One Direction and Ed Sheeran.
  • Books e.g. Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling) has been translated into 68 languages and has sold more than 400 million copies in more than 200 countries.

What is the global influence of the UK’s media exports?

  • Most exported media is in English, so people in other counties develop a better understanding of the English language but accents and phrases are not necessarily representative of the whole of the UK.
  • The different lifestyles, values and beliefs of UK residents have become more widely known and understood but this can be misleading (e.g. most people don’t have servants like in Downton Abbey).
  • Media exports influence people’s perception of the UK. In some films, the UK is potrayed as industrial and ugly but in others it’s potrayed as scenic and rural.
  • If the UK is potrayed positively in media it makes people want to visit, come here to study or to work e.g. tourism increased significantly after the London 2012 Olympics which was broadcast on TV globally.
  • UK media exports can also inspire companies to create programmes with similar formats in other countries e.g. the format of The Weakest Link was bought by over 40 other countries including France, Australia and the USA.
  • People often copy the hairstyles and clothes of celebrities in the media so British celebrities have an impact on fashion around the world.