Publishing and broadcasting

An overview of the UK's publishing sector


The UK publishing industry has a turnover of £6 billion, with export income accounting for almost 60 per cent of revenues according to the International Publishers Association.

The publishing industry directly employs 29,000 people in the UK and supports more than 70,000 jobs.

What is publishing?

Traditionally, 'publishing' was seen as printing material to make it available for public view. It referred to the creation and distribution of books, newspapers, music and magazines.

More recently, the creation and increased use of the internet and electronic media has significantly widened the scope of publishing. Now, a huge volume of websites, emails, computer games and software and blogs are published each day around the world, and this has had a detrimental impact on sales of printed publications.

Digital publishing

Publishing used to be an exclusive job for highly trained individuals at publishing companies and agencies. The capability, usability and affordability of modern technology means businesses and individuals can now easily, quickly and cost-efficiently publish their own content at the click of a mouse, thereby becoming a publisher.

Opportunities in publishing

Publishing jobs include developing, commissioning or acquiring content (online or offline), editing, graphic design, photography, production work (including video and Podcasts), website/email creation, and uploading and marketing/distribution of offline and online content. A range of management and administration jobs also support the sector.

For suppliers, online and offline opportunities exist in each of the above areas to work for publishing companies and other businesses. Publishers can commission content themselves or be approached by suppliers or producers for publishing work - in return for a fee. Suppliers and producers can publish their own works and receive full payment for doing so, provided there is sufficient demand.

Key publishing regulations

Throughout the publishing process, you need to be mindful of regulations that seek to protect the rights of individuals and organisations by governing what can and cannot be legally published.

For example, actions for libel can be brought in court for publishing statements that defame a person (or people) in a way that affects their livelihood or causes a 'reasonable person to think worse of them'.

Other key publishing legislation concerns:

  • copyright - eg reproducing a photograph without the permission of the author
  • contempt of court - eg publishing material likely to jeopardise a fair trial
  • breaching the Official Secrets Acts

Publishers and editors might also be served with an official request not to publish or broadcast items for reasons of national security.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is the regulatory body for UK printed newspapers and magazines. It maintains the Editors' Code of Practice to ensure the highest possible professional standards in the industry.