Optimism prevails despite uncertainty in the industry

Arts and media professionals are facing tumultuous times but most in the arts are optimistic about the impact of the internet age.
Optimism prevails despite uncertainty in the industry

These are the findings of a Media Super survey that canvassed the opinions of 2,556 industry professionals in sectors including journalism and news media, printing and packaging, and arts and entertainment.

Media Super is the industry super fund for creative professionals, working with industry partners to support a range of professional development programs, workplace education sessions and financial literacy initiatives that support the fund’s members and their industries.

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The fund’s inaugural survey comes against a backdrop of rapidly changing media and print landscapes, where many of the largest employers are reducing the size of their operations and outsourcing jobs. In the arts sector, the future of government funding and its potential impact of on the sector has materialised as a significant concern.

According to the survey, more than three quarters of the respondents believe that good jobs are hard to find in the current climate, with this figure highest in the media (85%), arts (88%) and printing (80%). 

But not everyone is despairing.  About half the respondents (51%) are still optimistic about the future direction their career will take, with more of the optimists coming from the arts than from media. Around 64% of those in the arts are optimistic about their future in the industry, compared to just 46% of those in media. 

Arts and entertainment professionals (70%) as well as advertising, design, public relations and communications professionals (78%) overwhelmingly believe the internet has been good for their industry.

In the arts, ‘a lack of good paying jobs’ is the top concern, while ‘declining editorial departments and staff’ is the media’s top concern.

Media Super Chief Executive Graeme Russell said the underlying differences in the arts and media industries’ basic nature of employment drove the difference in optimism levels.

‘The media has traditionally had a greater level of job security than the arts. The rapid structural changes and reduction in permanent staff in the major media companies over the past few years appear to have had a greater impact on the outlook of media professionals than the ongoing lack of well-paying jobs has on the arts practitioners.’

Further variations are apparent between the industries, with the survey revealing a marked difference in how the internet is perceived in the media, printing and arts sectors.

The majority of media professionals believe the internet has a negative impact on journalism, news quality and delivery. This pessimism is evident in the printing industry, where 63% think the internet is adversely affecting the industry.

Russell said the growth of the internet has led to the 24-hour news cycle – stretching resources in the media industry and intensifying competition for audiences.

‘Australian media companies are no longer just competing with each other – the fight for viewers, or readers, is now global. Indeed, everyone with smart phone is potentially a reporter.’

With the arts industry, however, the internet has presented fantastic new opportunities for many artists – providing the means to reach new audiences on a global scale.

‘There are a whole host of new, non-traditional avenues for publishing and producing work, as well as connecting and collaborating with other artists,’ Russell said.

Russell pointed to the advent of crowd-funding as an important development that came out of the internet, saying it wouldn’t be possible without the reach afforded by digital technology.

Social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also provided a platform for movements such as #paythewriters, which advocates for writers to be remunerated accordingly for the work they provide.

Pertinently, the survey found that 26% of those in the media and arts feel compelled to provide free content at least weekly in order to secure a job or advance their career, with this tendency more pronounced in younger workers.

Despite the changes taking place in their industries, however, 53% of respondents think their industry is headed in the right direction. Around 60% are embracing the opportunities of a changing industry and looking forward to developing their career.

Russell said Media Super actively works to make its members think about how they want to spend their life after work.

He said there are a few simple steps that arts and media professionals can take to increase their superannuation savings, even if they are on a variable or sporadic income. This includes combining multiple super accounts, making voluntary super contributions and getting financial advice.

And notwithstanding the very real challenges facing the printing and media sectors, Russell said creative professionals are seizing new and exciting opportunities.

‘The printing and media sectors, in particular, are going through significant transition as the digital economy grows, but the passion and creative drive of the people working in these industries, will, I think, see most of them find other ways to ply their crafts.’

The Media Super Casting Call Directory is an example of how arts and media practitioners can connect and collaborate with each other, while Media Super’s Yearbook shares and celebrates the highlights and achievements of industry professionals.

Click here to view an infographic of the Media Super findings.

Sonia Nair

Tuesday 3 November, 2015

About the author

Sonia Nair is a renewable energy journalist and Reviews Editor at human rights media organisation Right Now. Follow her @son_nair