Consensus in the creative sector
SINCE the latter part of September, I have participated in a number of activities including the WIPO/JIPO National Workshop on "How to make a living from Music"; The Entertainment Advisory Board Retreat; and, The Ministry of Culture/PIOJ Sector Planning Workshop for Culture, Creative Industries, Entertainment and Youth.
What is very clear is that there is a general consensus in this sector about the priority issues mitigating the growth and development of the creative industries and entertainment. Even more invigorating is the realisation of a broad consensus on what are the priority actions over the medium term for the policy framework and actions that are required to reposition these sectors to increase their economic viability and contribution to the Gross National Product.
There is little doubt that many members of the fraternity remain sceptical that we will see these discussions bear fruit in a new alignment of public policy along the lines agreed. This is because some of the issues have been under consideration for more than two decades, yet, it seems, there has not been the political will to take the steps that are necessary, including appropriate legislation, to fully exploit the abundant creative talents of the Jamaican people and, more importantly, to convert that into successful enterprise and a burgeoning sector.
I honestly believe that the underlying reason for this is a deep-seated, social prejudice against the people who make up a majority of the sector. There is a national schizophrenia which produces revulsion of the predominantly black images that are portrayed in our creative endeavours from film and literary arts to theatre, dance, the visual arts and, especially, our music. The strong African retentions that are exhibited in our arts and which is appealing to people of diverse cultures all over the world, are deeply resented by the power brokers in Jamaica, who have held sway since independence. Along with tremendous expansion and international penetration of our arts, against all the odds, thankfully, I think that we are experiencing a generational shift in technocratic and political leadership and with that an enlightened change in the mindset of officialdom.
So despite my own scepticism, there is a gut feeling that this time around we may be able to influence and effect changes to how the sector is operated, regulated and governed. Some of the priority issues around which there is consensus are:
* The need for the enactment of an Entertainment Encouragement Act;
* The need for a marketing aggregator to promote and distribute our products worldwide;
* The need for a Creative Industries Policy;
* The establishment of a Cultural and Creative Industries Council;
* Establishment of a National Centre for the Performing Arts inclusive of a fully equipped Concert Hall, along with other suitable venues and public spaces across the
island for cultural expression and performance;
* The launching of a Cultural Industries Enhancement Fund; and,
* The need for government to sign the Madrid Protocol to give our intellectual property greater protection worldwide.
By the way, Sound Exchange is currently looking for over 50,000 artistes and labels including Jamaicans, who have not collected royalties owed to them for digital streams and Internet radio. Many of our artistes risk losing royalties collected three or more years ago.