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Hamish Champ is the editor of PRW. When not doinghis day job he finds time to ride his motorcycle, listen to Deep Purple and take his 12 year-old son to the cinema/park/football/pub...

'The mainstream media doesn't 'get' UK manufacturing: discuss'

Posted on 23 October 2014

The recent report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the state of UK manufacturing took some unpicking but in essence the document highlighted that while much smaller than 30 or more years ago, the sector is doing pretty nicely thank you.

While the report itself was generally an ‘encouraging read’ I found the reaction of the mainstream media™ more bemusing.

Listening to a piece on the ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4 (yes, no Heart FM for me in the morning, I’m afraid) one could be forgiven for thinking that broadcasters had it in for manufacturers in this country.

The presenter of the piece – whose name escapes me now – sounded incredulous when talking about a report that painted a reasonably bright picture for UK manufacturing.

Pointing out that 8% of the UK’s total jobs were in manufacturing compared with 25% in 1979 it was implied – or maybe I simply inferred from his tone – that manufacturing was as good as dead and buried. It isn't.

Like many commentators it is easier and for some more satisfying to present the ‘gloom, doom and despondency’ angle than it is to actually uncover good stuff.

This is not to say that there aren’t ‘gloom, doom and despondency’ stories around, and goodness knows, when we write about a man losing a limb in a machine or a business going bust the ‘clicks’ go through the roof, so you clearly want to read about that sort of thing.

But the mainstream media’s™ obsession with telling anyone who’ll listen just how bad everything thing is on the factory floor is missing the point.

Good things are being done. Innovative design and manufacturing is responsible for innovative – and in many cases world-beating – products that this country should be rightly proud of.

Yes, the economy is still teetering somewhat and there are concerns that some markets may go into reverse.

And yes, sometimes journalists have to report the unpalatable.

But I do wish some of those same journalists would get out into the field, so to speak, and find out that it’s not all ‘gloom, doom and despondency’.


My company supports many jobs (such as contract cleaners, service engineers, consultants, payroll bureau) who in 1979 would have been directly employed manufacturing jobs..and now are service industry employees. Gross value added measures this, simple classification by sector does not. Its not a complete explanation as we all recognise the manufacturing sector is relatively smaller than the bloated beasts in 1979, but unlike many of those I think we are here to stay

- 24 October 2014 - Bert

Once again your blog is bang on the nail, but I get the feeling that if reporters shouted about the good news the tories would take the credit, well from my perspective the good news is despite the government (whoever is in power) not because of.

- 23 October 2014 - geoff

The UK’s manufacturing sector today represents more value in terms of GDP that it did in 1979… it just employs fewer people. Productivity is up, about 2.8% every year since the war, which in turn enhances its overall value. If manning levels were at 1979 rates we’d have reason to worry about UK manufacturing – but they’re not. The bottom line is that during the past 30 years manufacturing has actually INCREASED. The figures are all there in the ONS documentation. Only a fool would conflate workforce size with sector activity/performance.

- 23 October 2014 - Danny Plastic

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