ELSPA' new approach

Our relationship with Government has changed – along with our attitude, says the trade body’s director general Michael Rawlinson…

PEGI’s ascent to becoming the sole ratings system for games was a momentous achievement for the industry – and just goes to show how we can really get the Government’s attention when we get our approach right.
We’ve deliberately become more professional in terms of our dealings with Government. We’re strategically planning what we do – we don’t just bowl up to meetings, answer questions then leave.

We not only had to convince Government that PEGI was the right solution for protecting children – we also took our arguments much wider, taking in the whole of Westminster, as well as the devolved parliament in Scotland and the regional assembly in Wales as well as the European parliament. Retailers, children’s charities and more were also covered. All of these groups had different needs we had to meet.


Having gained the broad support from of all these areas, it gave Government the confidence to make the rather difficult decision in favour of PEGI. This hopefully gives our members an idea of the sophistication of our approach when lobbying on these important policy areas. Our success came about because ELSPA and the industry isn’t just shouting anymore – we’re actually delivering solutions.

Turn the clock back 18 months, to professor Tanya Byron’s original report. It was inconclusive, but talked about a BBFC/PEGI combination. The Select Committee that followed recommended a BBFC solution. It wasn’t an easy situation to face.

But in the subsequent months – with a holistic, measured strategy – ELSPA and the industry managed to demonstrate the strength of an enhanced PEGI solution for child protection. And we convinced the people that mattered. We need to continue this model of ELSPA leading the industry position, with involvement from people across the trade – because there are still plenty of issues on the agenda.

Some of these were covered in the Government’s Digital Britain report. For example, is the 2MB universal broadband target sufficient for the industry? Are the proposals for ISPs becoming more involved in tackling peer-to-peer file-sharing the right way forward for us – and how will they work practically?

There’s also the skills agenda. We need to help the Government have a knowledge-based economy – and a highly trained workforce is paramount in that. We have the best creative games talent in the world, and we need a skilled workforce to ensure that continues.

And then there’s the latest thing: The supporting evidence that’s required for culturally-based tax support for interactive software.

Of those, the two biggest priorities for us are piracy and tax breaks. We still face both physical piracy and criminal piracy online – with organised groups making money from both. Without question, we need to continue to stop both in their tracks – and show no tolerance, regardless of who it is repeatedly stealing from our members. Achieving tax breaks is obviously going to be difficult given the budgetary constraints facing whoever makes up the next administration.

But then there is this vast other area – where normal citizens are sharing files like they used to do with discs in the playground. Does anyone want to make those people criminals? Probably not. Then again, I’ve heard figures of internet traffic increasing six times over because of the popularity of illegitimate online activity. Nobody gets paid for that – not even the ISPs. It is clearly not right and a responsible Government should want to deal with it.

If you increase the M25 by three lanes to deal with traffic, and no-one’s paying for it… you’ve got a problem that needs a solution.

On the tax breaks issue, we’re getting closer – as you can see from the open discussion with the DCMS that MCV reported on the other week. We’re working with the right solution that supports British creativity and inward investment.

What makes a culturally British game? It is an important question and one which needs a definitive answer so that ELSPA’s members know exactly where they stand. As our scope increases, a wider variety of companies stand to benefit from

ELSPA membership. With the success our members can demonstrate, we’re confident other businesses will see the value in being part of our organisation – and just how effective we can be at every level.

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