Overview of BC’s Creative Industries

BC’s creative industries have unique characteristics, as detailed in the recent report From the Margins to the Mainstream: Moving BC’s Creative Industries Forward (April 2012). This report examined the domestic film, television, digital media, music, book publishing and magazine industries in BC and below are some of the highlights.

As noted in UNCTAD’s Creative Economy reports (2008 and 2010), creative economy is a multi-dimensional concept that cuts across a number of different sectors in the overall economy, such as economic development, urban planning, trade, labour, domestic and foreign investment, technology, tourism and education.  It is this cross-cutting nature that complicates matters for policy makers in recognizing the contribution of creative industries and targeting support. Part of the difficulty lies in the multi-faceted nature of the creative industries, in that they can overlap and form part of several different industries, making it difficult to develop a comprehensive measurement of the impact of the creative sector on a broad scale.  Creative industries provide a breeding ground for creativity and innovation in the larger economy and are critical to driving job creation for a technology-driven future, yet this contribution is difficult to demonstrate. British Columbia has the strengths to capitalize on the global shift to the creative economy given its many assets, including a vibrant traditional cultural sector and our innovative and thriving digital media companies.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), BC’s creative sector experienced a steady 3% annual real GDP growth from 2002 to 2007, outpacing many of BC’s other major sectors, including agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined.  By 2007, the creative sector GDP was $4 billion, contributing a comparable share of provincial GDP as the major sectors.  Additionally, employment in the creative sector grew to represent almost 4% of the provincial workforce, higher than the combined employment in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. BC’s creative industries have developed over time due to a number of critical factors, including government policies supporting the development of these industries, the entrepreneurial spirit and business talents of individuals and companies in these sectors, and the appeal of British Columbia as a location for major international companies. There has been huge private sector investment in infrastructure, most notably in the film and television production sector.  It is estimated that capital investment made by the film and television industry in BC, including studio infrastructure, production services equipment, post-production facilities, exceeds $1 billion.

The creative industries in BC have developed a number of distinguishing characteristics.  The sectors are younger than in other established areas of Canada, such as Ontario, and there are few head offices of major companies, Canadian or foreign, in British Columbia.  As a result, most companies operating in the creative sector are small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and have had to develop cross-sectoral expertise in order to survive.  Being outside the centre has promoted more nimble and flexible creative producers that embody the entrepreneurial spirit, one of the cornerstones of innovation.

These unique characteristics are at the heart of developing new and effective industrial support mechanisms for these sectors in BC.  The agencies behind the Creative Industries Report continue to work with the provincial government to recognize the contributions of the creative industries and to work together to develop their potential as an important contributor to BC’s economic future.

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