Gov't sets record straight

Entertainment Ministry justifies Etana's grant

Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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THE Government is standing by its decision to give a US$5,000 grant to reggae singer Etana under its Tour Support and Artiste Ambassador Programme for her 32-city North American tour.

Senior director in the Entertainment Division of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Gillian Wilkinson-McDaniel, addressed the issue at a media briefing at the ministry's Trafalgar Road office in St Andrew yesterday afternoon. Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange was absent from the briefing as she was in Parliament.

Wilkinson-McDaniel explained that the programme was initiated in 2013 by then Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment's junior minister Damian Crawford as a way to enhance the reggae brand and provide additional marketing for destination Jamaica.

“We know from that that it has been music — reggae music — that is the essence of the Jamaican brand. Knowing that and the history of Jamaican music and its pull for destination Jamaica, the Tour Support and Artiste Ambassador Programme was started. Between 2013 and 2015 two persons — Protoje received US$8,000 and Kabaka Pyramid and the Bebble Rockers received US$1,000 during that particular period. Since then, in 2017 Raging Fyah, when they went on their Everlasting Tour and were nominated for the Grammy, also received (US$3,500) tour support, and this year Etana has received tour support. Freddie McGregor also received tour support in 2016 when he was invited to perform in Bogota as part of a creative city endeavour,” she shared.

Wilkinson-McDaniel explained that Etana, who is currently on tour, topped a field of four applicants for the grant, noting that there is a clear process for potential recipients, which begins with applicants submitting their bids to the Entertainment Division where they are vetted and sent to the entertainment advisory board for consideration, then to the permanent secretary for ratification and approval.

“In this fiscal year, we received four applications, some of which we were unable to actually review primarily because the tour dates were much too close. We ask that persons submit applications with a clear three to six months because the mechanism of actually disbursing funds can be difficult in government. You also need to know what your tour itinerary is. Some people will come with one date and we have to send you back as that is not sufficient, and we have to send you back to the drawing board for a full itinerary of your tour.”

She added that, “You have to complete the entertainment registry application because we require that every person who gets support from us, that you are registered as a bona fide cultural practitioner. You need to indicate the size of the venues so that we can then measure the impact — how many persons are you going to be reaching at any given time. We also look at who are you touring with. So, for example, in this case Etana is touring with J Boog and Jesse Royal. These are some of the things that the board would consider. It is about expected audience reach in relation to the venue and your social media and marketing plan.”

Last Thursday Etana received the grant, which ignited a firestorm of criticism from members of the public, including fellow entertainer Tanya Stephens. Some questioned the grounds on which Etana was awarded the funds, while others stated that the money should have gone to newcomers in the music business.

There were also suggestions the funds should have been donated to the GoFundMe campaign launched by the relatives of actress Rosie Murray, who suffered a heart attack in December and requires US$20,000 for surgery.

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