Publishing and broadcasting

An overview of the UK's publishing sector

The UK publishing industry is the second largest in Europe. It provides jobs for 164,000 people, approximately 0.6 per cent of the UK's workforce.

There are roughly 8,000 publishing companies - almost half being located in London and the South East and most have fewer than 25 employees. Major publishing companies that are often larger employ more than half of those working in the industry in the UK. Freelancers and sole traders make up about 15 per cent of the UK's publishing workforce.

Government statistics estimate the annual turnover for books, journals and online educational products at £3.3 billion, while the paper and periodicals sub-sector is estimated to generate £5.9 billion.

What is 'publishing'?

'Publishing' is traditionally 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 internet and electronic media has widened the scope of publishing significantly. 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.

Publishing used to be an exclusive job for highly trained individuals at publishing companies and agencies. Now, 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.

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) great and small. 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 the High Court for published 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) and breaching the Official Secrets Acts. Publishers and editors might also be served with a Defence Advisory (DA) Notice - an official request not to publish or broadcast items for reasons of national security.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is the regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines. Intended to ensure the highest possible professional standards, you can find the PCC Editors' Code of Practice on the PCC website.