The once-thriving Seattle Festival has declared bankruptcy and closed up shop. “The move was not unexpected. Last November, SFTP announced that it needed $120,000 to pay off debts from the September 2003 Fringe Festival and continue to survive, but had only about $21,000 in cash assets.”
So George Bush is proposing that the National Endowment for the Arts get a big increase in funding. Roger Kimball writes that while there’s still plenty of room to debate whether the arts should be publicly funded, the NEA has reinvented itself into an institution that suddenly matters. “After a couple of decades of cultural schizophrenia, the NEA has become a clear-sighted, robust institution intent on bringing important art to the American people.”
In Madison, Wisconsin, local leaders are promoting a referendum which would allow limited casino gambling within the city limits as a method of generating new revenue to support the arts. Gambling initiatives are not uncommon in the Midwest, and with countless Native American casinos already in operation across the region, there is usually little backlash against such proposals, particularly in difficult economic times. But ArtsJournal’s Andrew Taylor reports that, in Madison, many local arts groups are openly campaigning against the gambling initiative, believing that the casino’s very existence will do more harm than good to their bottom lines.
Taking a page from the music industry’s playbook, Warner Bros. film studio is suing several people in believes have been distributing pirated versions of its films online. One of the individuals on the receiving end of the studio’s wrath is a Hollywood actor whom the studio says passed the ‘screeners’ he was sent to an electrician in Illinois, who then began distributing them online. “The lawsuit also lists 10 unnamed defendants as part of the alleged plot to distribute digital copies of the movies on the Internet.”
With traditional network television continuing to hemorrhage viewers, and cable networks splintering the market more with every passing day, the landscape of American television is on the verge of revolutionary change. Among the options being looked at by the over-the-air nets are flexible schedules, eliminating reruns (unless they can be strategically used to draw new viewers,) and maybe – just maybe – the eventual elimination of the absurd and indefensible “sweeps” periods.
It is an issue so divisive that British Prime Minister Tony Blair came dangerously close to losing his government over it this week: how to properly fund the UK’s impoverished universities, while maintaining a reasonable level of access for students of varying economic backgrounds. “Past governments have preferred to posture, expanding the universities while allowing them to decline.” But Blair proposed, and then eased through Parliament, a controversial plan calling for major tuition hikes, which are expected to generate £1 billion of new revenue for the system by 2009.
What in God’s name has happened to the great art of American political oratory? Where exactly, in the gaping chasm of history between William Jennings Bryan and George W. Bush, did our elected representatives lose the ability to inspire us with impassioned speeches choked with dangerous metaphor? Some blame the ’60s (just out of habit, most likely,) and some blame the triumph of the individual over collective experience. But whatever the reason, “in both oral and written English, talking is triumphing over speaking, spontaneity over craft.”
The arts don’t often register even a blip on the national political radar screen these days, but that didn’t stop the American Arts Alliance from asking presidential candidates to sign a “Pledge for the Arts,” and to detail what their hypothetical administrations would do to promote and support America’s cultural scene. John Kerry was the first to sign, and he was followed this week by Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and Joseph Lieberman. President Bush did not respond to the Alliance’s request, although one could assume that he intends for his new proposal to boost funding for the National Endowment for the Arts to speak for itself.
Greg Dyke, the director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, has stepped down in the wake of a damning report by a UK judge involving the death of a BBC source who had accused the Blair government of “sexing up” a dossier on the threat posed by Iraq. The suicide of Dr. David Kelly, who anonymously provided information to a BBC reporter before being revealed by another media outlet, led to six weeks of hearings before Lord Hutton, who also cleared the Blair government of all wrongdoing in his report.
“President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday. The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation’s moral standards.” The president’s proposal is for a hike of $15 million to $20 million in the fiscal year beginning in October 2004.