Keith Harris - Inconsistencies In Government Arts Policy...

17 Sep 2015

I’ve spent quite a lot of time recently wondering whether anybody is actually in charge of government policy with regards to the Arts or whether ministers just randomly make things up as they go along, depending on their current whim. Two of the things that have caused my current bemusement is the government attitude to the BBC, and the ban on Tyler the Creator being allowed into the UK to perform.

To take Tyler first, the Home Secretary has banned him from performing in Britain on the basis that some of his early lyrics “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality” and “fosters hatred.” Quite apart from the very obvious restriction on freedom of speech – we don’t have to like what people say, but Britain has traditionally defended their right to say it. Particularly in an artistic context.

It seems ludicrous that Tyler, the Creator should be unable to perform at Reading Festival and carry out his other engagements, at the same time as the NWA movie Straight Outta Compton is being released to multiplexes around the country. I find it very hard to separate the early views and early lyrics of the members of NWA from the early views and early lyrics of Tyler, the Creator. Does the Home Secretary have any idea what is going on, or has she been told by somebody who was told by somebody?

Moving on to the BBC, there is currently a review of the organisation in progress, apparently the review is being undertaken by a panel of people who have either a vested interest in seeing the BBC dismantled or who have expressed a view that a significant downgrading of the activities of the BBC would be their preferred outcome.

Given that the BBC is widely recognised to be one of the key reasons why Britain has punched above its weight internationally in all areas of the arts for at least the last 50 years, it seems at the very least a little strange that a government which purports to support Britain’s creative communities is behaving in a way which would possibly embarrass a banana republic when assembling “an independent” panel to review what is undoubtedly the British creative communities greatest asset.  Make no mistake – once the BBC has been destroyed it cannot be rebuilt.

For many years government policy has been scrutinised and assembled by civil servants who generally take their time and think things through, and in spite of the Yes Minister image of the civil service, I would rather have that method of policy-making rather than the random shooting from the hip of the current batch of politicians.

Keith Harris – Chair, MusicTank

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