5 things the ad industry wants from the new culture secretary

5 things the ad industry wants from the new culture secretary
Lisa Nandy (Official Cabinet Portrait, July 2024, HM Government)

This industry will be watching closely what the new government’s stance is on talent, AI, sport, social media and the economy.

Congratulations to Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour party, but commiserations to Thangam Debbonnaire, who was set to be our new secretary of state for culture, media and sport before she was defeated by the Green party.

Now the work begins for new secretary of state, Lisa Nandy.

Nandy have a busy in-tray — although since both the Media Bill and the Digital Markets bill were included in the pre-election “wash up”, there are two fewer major pieces of legislation to worry about.

However, the attention will now focus on the implementation of the new legislation, which covers big topics from the role of public-sector broadcasting to media ownership rules. 

Of notable interest to advertisers are provisions to ensure the apps of public-service broadcasters like ITVX and BBC iPlayer are prominently featured in smart TVs’ user interfaces to help ensure their ongoing visibility, while content on platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ is now being subject to Ofcom’s editorial standards.

So, given that much has been covered in these two pieces of legislation that have been in the works for a long time, what else do we need from the new government?


Schools and universities are cutting back on creative subjects in favour of equipping students with digital and data skills, and last year Rishi Sunak sped up this process even more when he outlined a vision that was all about maths. 

The UK has traditionally been strong in the creative industries and, for the sake of developing homegrown talent, we need a government that supports creativity in education. What we don’t want is for advertising to be the preserve of the privileged. In order to improve the industry, we need talent from diverse backgrounds to see advertising as a potential career.

The immigration policy for overseas talent is also in need of an overhaul. We’ve traditionally had a steady cohort of media professionals come over to the UK industry from Australia and New Zealand — and the current three-year working policy is working well post-Covid-19.

However, European migration is no longer what it used to be due to the points-based system that was put in place post-Brexit that replaced freedom of movement.

If we want the UK advertising industry to be an international centre and a gateway to Europe, we need to make it easier for European talent to work here — and create a more welcoming environment.

AI regulation

For me, the debate around AI should focus less on protecting jobs in the creative industries and more on how we as an industry are using it.

There needs to be a robust framework in place to ensure that the content that goes out to consumers is genuine and not misleading. The fake videos circulating on social media of various politicians (and Gareth Southgate has come in for a bit of stick as well) are amusing in their obvious AI fakery, but there is a more serious issue in the circulation of “fake” content that advertising appears around.

Additionally, we need better intellectual property protection for original creation in order to safeguard the UK’s creativity. It can’t all be open source. The UK has a strong creative industry and while increased automation or AI generation of creative content is the future, this can’t come at the expense of original content creators in video, music and text form.


While some of this has been tackled in the Media Bill, it’s important that we see the continued protection and availability of sport on free-to-air or ad-funded channels — otherwise it will all inevitably be scooped up by digital giants and put behind paywalls. 

Admittedly, both England and Scotland’s performances in the Euros have been found wanting and we’ve not seen the huge audiences we’d hoped for, but live sport still has an unrivalled opportunity to reach people in one big hit — and that is key to many media plans.

We want as much sporting content to be ad-funded so that everyone can enjoy these events and unite behind their favourite athletes and teams — and advertisers can reach large numbers of people in those moments of heightened emotion.

Social media and online safety

The Online Safety Bill is set to come into effect next year and I, for one, welcome the reforms regulating what algorithms show to children so that they’re not subjected to content that is harmful, such as promoting self-harm or suicide.

However, calls for blanket smartphone bans for under-16s are not realistic. In reality, many children are already pushing back against screen time and zombie-scrolling. I hope that this is an opportunity to focus beyond online safety and look into how the global tech giants, which are hoovering up ad budgets, can be taxed to support media plurality and defend our local media ecosystem.

We already have the Digital Services Tax on revenues derived from UK users on search engines and social media platforms like Google and Meta. Perhaps it’s time to take this one step further and look at the streaming platforms, too, as a way of supporting local media?

The economy

Finally, I’m calling on the wider government to focus on boosting the economy. Advertising is a cyclical business and a return to growth for the economy will mean a return to growth for the advertising industry. 

We’ve had sluggish growth in the industry for a number of years, but I believe that consumer confidence and increasing living standards will translate into business confidence and investment. 

The election may be over but, for the new government, the work is only just beginning. They need to go further than the previous government to support the creative industries.

And the most important question remains: can Starmer and Nandy deliver?

Ed Cox square

Ed Cox is founder and managing director at Yonder Media

This article was first published before Nandy was appointed Culture Secretary on the evening of 5 July and has since been updated.

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