Setting the Stage

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Pandemic aside, Howard Keith Debono President of the MEIA shares the need for such an entity to support the entertainment industry

Our industry is not a small industry and quite complex. In fact, besides the executive committee, we have 10 advisory committees and sub committees covering: – Dance, Music, Theatre, Film & TV, Fashion, Entertainment Venues, Technical Suppliers and Service providers, Events promoters and organizers, Visual Arts and Arts education.

Our mission goes beyond dealing with the effect of the pandemic is having over our industry. We immediately felt the need to highlight that the creative sector should be a strategic national resource, equally a priority that requires urgent attention. Unfortunately, this kind of narrative was missing for several years.  

If one choses to ignore the intrinsic value of arts and culture enriching our lives, the well-being for society, philanthropic needs and education in our society, then all one needs to do is to simply look at the GVA figures in economy in the last 3 years to understand why this should also be in everyone’s general interest. Our industry registered significant growth when compared to other industries. The arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors have effectively increased the share in Malta’s GDP to 7.6% in 2019 from 2.5% in 2000.

Truthfully, our industry has been resilient to a lot of problems in the past. It’s also good to mention the good things. We’ve also seen good policies drafted, the inclusion of such in the current budget measures as well as  the standards reached which are no easy task for such a small country. On the flip side a report published by Standards & Poor’s mentioned the Arts & Creative sector as being badly hurt alongside Tourism.

The average reduction in the domestic market is equivalent to that of restaurants and hotels. Whereas the vouchers were important and effective for restaurants and hotels, the arts sectors could not benefit because most events were cancelled or postponed. To this effect we came up with an idea which we proposed to the ministry of economy based on e-voucher concept dedicated specifically for the arts and entertainment industry. This would also help tackle the dangerous trends of free consumption which translates to devaluation of the arts.

Besides publishing a list of recommendations to authorities to draft protocols for our industry to operate safely, we started to work on accumulative data from our hundreds of members, a survey we carried out and as well as data collections from NSO to get a realistic picture of the whole industry. This was imperative to understand what needed to be done to tackle all the urgent issues which were compiled in a 10-budget measure survival and recovery plan. This tackled both obvious measures such as seed funding as well as other outside of the box ideas such as the creation of a task force bringing together the IT, iGaming as well as the creative sector. An industry like ours is not short of ideas but it definitely requires a complete economic chain to thrive.

It took us 25 years to get here and we certainly do not want to go back to the days when it was incomprehensible to have a career in the arts and entertainment. The private sector has done significant and factual sacrifices to get here. It’s therefore equally incomprehensible that there were situations where the private sector ended up in competition with the government. In fact, in our recent EGM we presented several points which MEIA intends to tackle with the relevant authorities based on our vision. Most of these are long overdue whilst others are reflective to the ever-changing landscape such as blockchain which is being looked at very closely.

We need to also re-emphasize how much these sectors create jobs and how artists, technicians, producers and their families depend on the future of these sectors. The multiplier effect of our industry spreads as far as beauty salons, taxis and clothes shops to mention a few.

Cultural consumption peaks between June and August and so we have an opportunity to see signs of recovery in the third quarter of next year if action is taken immediately and our recommendations are all put into practice. We look forward sharing with MBW’s readers more insight into our industry in the upcoming editions.

MEIA (Malta Entertainment Industry and Arts Association) was officially set up at their first AGM on the 21st of July, and as of this week MEIA is officially also part of Chamber of Commerce.

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