The UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has appointed Lucy Frazer as the new Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). In a far-reaching parliamentary shake up, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has removed the “digital” remit from the ministry, formerly called the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Frazer replaces Michelle Donelan, who was appointed by the former prime minister Liz Truss as culture secretary in September 2022. Donelan has been moved to a newly created department, titled the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Donelan’s new role will involve devising the UK government’s policy pertaining to digital infrastructure, an aspect of the brief which formerly fell under the purview of the DCMS.
Sunak’s decision to withdraw digital policy from the culture secretary’s portfolio of responsibilities means digital policy and media and cultural policy will now have to be co-ordinated across two separate government departments. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport will accordingly return to the name it held between 1997 and 2017, having been renamed as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2017.
The government shake up has received criticism from some notable voices, including the former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who worked as the UK’s culture secretary under the former prime minister Boris Johnson between September 2021 and September 2022. On Twitter, Dorries said: “Sad to break up DCMS because it works. Dept (sic) has tragically lacked profile of late despite being most effective in Whitehall. Track record in tech, digital, gigabit roll out, telecoms, data speaks for itself.”
Frazer has a background in law, having worked as a barrister for over a decade before entering parliament. She has held a variety of ministerial positions since she was first elected an MP in May 2015. Most recently, she was Minister of State in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Planning. She has also served as Solicitor General, Minister of State for Prisons and Probations, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.
As the new head of DCMS, Frazer will assume responsibility for overseeing the UK’s varied creative industries, including the UK’s arts industry, its museum sector and its many heritage sites. The UK’s creative sector as a whole employs more than 235,000 people across the UK.
At the top of Frazer’s in-tray will be the question of what to do about potential reforms to the broadcaster Channel 4, and what direction the government should take on the contentious Online Safety Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament. Donelan took steps to weaken provisions within the bill amid concerns over its potential impact on artistic freedom and civil liberties.
Frazer will also have to work out her stance on the debate concerning the ongoing restitution of colonial-era artefacts to their original place of provenance, with the British Museum’s possible return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, Greece, a current hot topic of debate.