By Danika Thomson

North Sea Tides

‘Tides of Change’

Since the day of her death on April 8th 2013, there’s been no getting away from the various opinions being batted back and forth in the British media about the former Conservative Prime Minister, the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher. However, whether for or against, what is true is that the policies implemented by Thatcher during her time in government, had far reaching and long lasting economic and social consequences for generations of Britons.

Elected in 1979 on the back of the so called “Winter of Discontent” in 1978 which saw workers strikes resulting in un-buried bodies, rubbish on the streets and hospitals in chaos. Thatcher promised a break with the past, and a definite change in the country’s economic direction by curbing the power of the unions, in a Britain that was perceived by both its inhabitants and foreign countries as ungovernable.

Thatcher was certainly in a strong position to implement these changes, as the Britain she inherited was one rich of state owned assets, such as a strong manufacturing base. Pioneering individual enterprise, Thatcher sold off council houses and shares with companies such as the previously state owned BT, and used revenues from North Sea Oil exports to fund the modernisation of Britain.

So here we are in 2013, the oil and gas industry is forecast to contribute just £6.8bn to exports this year, just 1.1pc of tax revenues, so what is our biggest export now?

As a country Britain exports machinery, transport, chemicals, medicine, food, clothes, alcohol,  weapons, electronic equipment and financial services. However, for me, the most interesting growing export is that of ‘Entertainment’ exports.

Firstly, the idea of creating a format for a show such as Dutch creator John De Mol’s Big Brother or Simon Cowell”s ‘Pop Idol’ and successfully selling the idea to the world is about as individually enterprising as you can get. In 2011, the estimated total revenue from the international sale of UK TV programmes and associated activities was £1,475m, a 9% increase from £1,355 in 2010.

Sales to the USA, the UK’s largest entertainment export market represented 43% of total entertainment export revenue, growing by 6% to £555m.

According to the UK Television Exports Survey 2011 ‘More than half the survey respondents considered British creativity the most important factor in driving the UK’s export success.’ Yet if we look closer at some of the programmes exported such as’The Office’,  ‘The Inbetweeners’ or ‘Shameless’, they have all been localised for the American market.

It seems that our sharing of a common language is not enough to communicate the humour and story lines depicted in the programmes.

Obviously there are some legal frameworks to consider, such as the legal drinking or driving ages in our respective countries. However, the most important thing that needs to be considered by the buyers of British entertainment, are the semiotics and the functioning of signs and symbols within the programme.

Some differences are so small that they can be easily adapted, or so well known world wide they need no explanation. However, other things can be so notably distinct or contradictory that they would not carry the same message even thought the language is the same. As the trend towards producing UK formats abroad gathers pace with a 124% rise in revenue to £41m, it is clear that their success depends on the careful culturalision and localisation for their American audiences.

Would you like to know more about how localisation could help you export successfully?

More information and advice is provided in our Transcreation section.

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