Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
Since Helen Clark, was elected to office, huge
sums of taxpayer funding have gone into the promotion and funding of the Arts
in New Zealand.
From memory, one of the very first things she did after her election to the
job was to hand out around $100m of unbudgeted money to the Arts community.
While it's tempting to poke a bit of borax and say that it's nice to see the
hard-earned cash of low-income NZers being used to subsidise the entertainment
and enjoyment of the upper classes I won't (oh dear -- I just did).
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Of course there are many undeniable benefits to a well supported Arts community
and we only have to look at how well our film industry has done in recent years
to see that.
As well as the direct advantage that comes in the form of export receipts for
popular film titles, there are the indirect effects such the increased global
awareness of NZ and the hike in foreign tourist traffic that results.
I'm sure there are some in the IT industry however, who despair that the
current government, and Helen Clark in particular, seem to be far more
inclined to hand over $25,000 in funding to the "Curve Dance Collective"
so they can work on a new dance "based on the Treaty of Waitangi" than they
are to help some innovative piece of Kiwi technology see the light of day.
Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit harsh -- after all, the design and development
of technology is a business and it's not government's job to subsidise
one business over another -- right?
On the other hand, the Arts are generally far less mercenary in their objectives.
Their intention is to provide objects or performances for all to enjoy and
without the over-riding pressure for profit -- right?
While there may be some truth to the above, one can't help but wonder whether
we can afford to spend so much of taxpayer's money on "luxuries" such as
funding a long list of novel writers to the tune of up to $36,000 a pop --
while someone else writing a computer game is left to pretty much go it alone.
After all -- if a novelist is any good, their books sell well and they make
money, right? When an esoteric or lacklustre novel doesn't sell enough to
make money then we have to ask why taxpayers are being asked to effectively
subsidise a work with such limited audience or of such poor quality -- especially
when we still have long hospital waiting lists and other social injustices.
If you're curious as to who's getting large wads of taxpayer cash to assist
in their artistic endeavours, check out
on the CreativeNZ website -- you might find it rather surprising.
And did you notice something else?
In my quick parse of the page, I didn't see a single dollar of funding for
21st-century "digital" art. I'm talking about things like rendering,
computer-generated/aided audio and/or visual works, etc.
Perhaps there simply aren't any digital artists applying for funding -- although
I'd be rather surprised if this was the case. Could it be that anything
involving hi-tech is simply not considered "artsy" enough?
We should remember also that the funding listed on this page is over and above
that provided by NZ On Air -- who, as of the last time I asked, didn't consider
the Net to be a "broadcast medium" so wouldn't consider funding programme
material for it.
Given the difficulties associated with developing hi-tech products in NZ and
our very lacklustre "knowledge economy" performance when compared to the likes
of Ireland, Israel, etc, would we be better off treating small
software developers and innovators as kindly as we treat our struggling artists
when it comes to government funding?
If you want to have your say on the contents
of today's column then please do so.
Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the
readers' comments section.
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