Industry? Or Business?

Okay. Last year’s announcement of the abolition of the UK Film Council stirred a right old debate on the future of the UK film industry. A campaign of protest at the decision was countered by a chorus of approval from those dissatisfied with its decisions or its procedures. (I had an ambivalent view on the matter, but the capitulation to ‘larger interests’ on the Digital Screen Network, which meant, among other things, that public money ended up subsidising Hollywood studio releases didn’t permit me to shed any tears.)

However, as I read through the coverage, the comments and counter-comments, I noticed that people on all sides would talk about both the film industry and the film business, as if the two – industry and business – were synonymous. Isn’t there a distinction to be made between an industry and a business, I wondered, and might that distinction not be significant when discussing the management and role of public (and lottery) funds?

I think there is a distinction and I think it goes beyond the debate about UK Film Council and I’ve found someone who has articulated it better than I could have done:

“There is a profound anthropological and cultural difference between an industry and a business. An industry is an entity which as its primary purpose makes or does something, and makes money as a byproduct. The car industry makes cars, the television industry makes TV programmes, the publishing industry makes books, and with a bit of luck they all make money too, but for the most part the people engaged in them don’t regard money as the ultimate purpose and justification of what they do. Money is a byproduct of the business, rather than its fundamental raison d’etre. … Most human enterprises, especially the most worthwhile and meaningful ones, are in that sense industries, focused primarily on doing what they do: healthcare and education are both, from this anthropological perspective, industries.”

<John Lanchester, ‘Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone Else And No One Can Pay’>

 

(Lanchester’s book, by the way, is an insightful and very accessible account of the origins and consequences of the recent banking crisis.)

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