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Digging deeper into the Federal budget

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The MMusic CouncilCA has kindly given us permission to feature the contents of this bulletin, which discusses the real value of the Federal Government's contribution to the arts and the ANU.

This bulletin is a benefit normally reserved for members of the Music Council of Australia. If you would like to receive this and other benefits, you could join MCA by going to www.mca.org.au and clicking on JOIN MCA on the menu bar.

MCA MEMBERS' OCCASIONAL BULLETIN
From the Executive Director, Music Council of Australia
 
In my bulletin a week ago I promised some comment on the Federal budget.

You will remember that some expected Arts Minister Simon Crean to announce his new National Cultural Policy at the time of the budget so that he could give it a bit of heft with some new arts money. Then it was said that there was no new money and therefore he would delay the NCP until some months later.

In the event, there was a little bit of new money BUT the NCP is delayed anyway.

Given the very tight budget, that the arts were assigned any new money is positive. But there is some question about what is actually new money—ie additional money and what is money replacing funds previously taken away, or money that keeps up with inflation or falls short of doing so.

The Australia Council got a few million more. With some sniffing around, you can actually find some detail online that shows the budget projections a few years ahead for institutions like the Australia Council. If they are followed through, Ozco will get increases at about half the rate of the inflation rate of the Consumer Price Index, which itself is less than the inflation rate for arts producers. Slow strangulation. On the other hand, the government is reviewing the Australia Council and we can expect changes to be proposed, in which case it would want to keep its powder dry and not be announcing new funding models or levels in advance. If it did decide to do something for the arts, it might like to announce the happy changes in next year’s pre-election budget.

There were three wodges of apparently new money for music. The Australian National Academy of Music, ANAM, in Melbourne, will get $1.6 million over four years for extra brass and percussion teaching. There is a program called Sounds Australia that works to build exports of Australian music by widespread industry collaboration in setting up networking possibilities in overseas conventions like SxSW, Midem, Womex. The industry sees it as a success story and the budget awarded $1.7million over four years. However, there has been a music export office at Austrade that has been wound back so maybe the $1.7m is more a transfer of old money than addition of new money. $1.3 million has gone to the West Australian Music Industry Association. Crean’s announcement mentions objectives to address skills development in songwriting, stage craft, audience development and communications but nevertheless there appears to be some lack of clarity about what it’s actually for. All will be revealed.

MCA received funds to run its Music: Count Us In program. The funding repeats the support given over recent years but has for the first time been confirmed in advance – for four years and a value of $1.92 million. This is a tremendous boost inasmuch as we can plan ahead and build new things into the program even though the amount of money each year is static.

Similar undertakings were given for three-year periods to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation ($1.26m), The Song Room ($1.35m) and for four years to Bell Shakespeare Company ($1.28m) for its schools programs.
There was some ‘new’ money for the National Library of Australia and the Australian Film and Sound Archive. These organisations have been going through really bad times, so starved of funds that only a couple of months ago, the Archive terminated seven senior staff. The NLA has terminated 10 positions including that of Curator of Music. If I take $10 from you, and then give you $5, is the $5 new money? A source in one of these institutions tells MCA that the funds will not result in restoration of any of the positions but will at least forestall any additional terminations.

Funding was terminated for the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project, AMRAP, a program of the Community Broadcasting Association to encourage and support the 300 Australian community radio stations to broadcast music written and/or performed by Australians. AMRAP involves, it says, 1,000 selected unsigned artists, 100 record labels, 1,500 broadcasters and has lifted the amount of Australian music broadcast by community stations from 32% up to 37% of total broadcast time. The top quota requirement on commercial radio is 25% so community radio is doing 50% better. This is a very successful program costing only around $600,000 and why Communications Minister Steven Conroy would allow it to be shut down is a mystery.

Finally, there is new money for SBS: $158.1 million over five years. “Multiculturalism” has been reinstated as a positive after its derogation in the Howard years. There is now a Minister for Multiculturalism (Kate Lundy).
Minister Conroy says of the SBS funding that “In an increasingly multicultural society, the Australian Government recognises SBS as one of Australia’s most important institutions… This represents the most significant funding boost SBS has ever had, and will ensure SBS can continue to provide a unique broadcasting service that includes comprehensive television, radio and online services…The independent production sector will also benefit from this funding boost as SBS continues to work with Australia’s creative industries to commission, produce, and acquire innovative, high quality, and unique programming.”
SBS will also establish a free-to-air national Indigenous television channel in the second half of 2012, available through the full reach of SBS’s terrestrial network and on the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service. The National Indigenous Television (NITV) service has worked with SBS to ensure this new channel could be established.
________________________________________
Who has not by now heard of the savage cutbacks to the Canberra School of Music at ANU?

As I wrote in my bulletin to you last week, they are the result of inadequate Federal funding for music at ANU. The same situation is faced by all tertiary music schools in Australia but only ANU has decided to stop the international cross-subsidy that makes an adequate music program possible.

There has been an enormous outcry. A petition was reported on Monday afternoon as having collected 18,000 signatures. Now the Canberra Chamber of Commerce is proposing that the University of Canberra should take over the school. We have no idea of the merits of that case but the School of Music’s new host would have to meet the same financial deficiencies as does ANU plus build facilities. The ANU facilities were built in headier days, have had some recent upgrades and would be hard to match.

It has just been announced that Adrian Walter, head of the School of Music, has resigned and will take up a position as head of the (very well supported) Hong Kong Academy of Music. Fingers are being pointed. When did he learn that these changes were on the way, did he apply for the HK position before or after, why didn’t he stop the changes, why didn’t he stay and go down with the sinking ship? But it is hard to imagine that he could have prevented these changes if as suspected the Vice-Chancellor was fixed upon them. Should he have resigned in protest? Well that would have been unambiguous. Or should he have stayed on and tried to make the best of a bad situation? I hope I am never put in such a position.

MCA is preparing strong representations to the Vice-Chancellor and the Minister.

Best regards
Dick Letts
 
Executive Director, Music Council of Australia, Past President, International Music Council
64/1 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000,

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