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By Christie Eliezer - © The Music Network

The Federal Budget for 2017/8 helped repair the damage caused to the arts and entertainment sector with savage funding cuts in recent years.

But the general response of the sector was profound disappointment that the Budget showed no long-term vision for the arts in terms of stimulating investment and innovation, increasing productivity and reaching a global market.

The two major items – the return of funds to the Australia Council and funding for at least two years for community radio to transfer to digital – had already been announced in recent weeks.

The most positive outcome from the Budget was it was the final nail in the coffin of previous Arts Minister George Brandis’ controversial attempt to set up the National Program for Excellence in the Arts (later the watered down version, Catalyst) as a second funding source by diverting money from the Australia Council.

Sixty small to medium arts organisations lost their funding, and many collapsed as a result.

The Australia Council will receive $90.2 million over five years “to support the Arts sector by continuing to meet the higher demand for grants from artists and organisations.”

The cost of this will be met by redirecting $80.2 million over four years from 2017-18 from the Department of Communications and the Arts.

This is made up of Catalyst grants, unspent money and funds that current Arts Minister Mitch Fifield previously returned.

So essentially, funding for the Arts Council will return to almost the same level as pre-Brandis, but well short of the $220 million that Labor provided four years ago as part of its Creative Australia policy.

In real terms, arts funding for the next two years will decrease by 2.6% from 2016/17 and by 12% between 2017/18 and 2020/21.

It reflects the Government’s stance that the sector should rely less on “handouts” and more on sourcing private sponsorship and donations.

This comes at a time when peak arts and performance groups are asking for more Federal money, first to keep up with inflation, and secondly to prevent missing opportunities for local and international touring.

Evelyn Richardson, CEO of Live Performance Australia, while expressing appreciation for the restoration of funding to the Australia Council, added, "For some of our small to medium (performing arts) companies, it’s too little too late.

"It is disappointing that the Turnbull Government hasn’t adopted any of the targeted measures proposed by LPA to stimulate investment and innovation in the live performance industry and to strengthen its contribution to the Australian economy.

"In recent years our industry has been hit by ongoing uncertainty over funding as well as increased costs through new visa charges for large touring groups.

"The restoration of some stability after a disruptive period is welcomed, but our industry still needs a longer term vision.

"We’re committed to working with the Government on a plan to support jobs and growth so we can genuinely look forward to better days ahead for Australia’s live performance industry.”

As announced last week, community radio gets $6.1 million over two years to convert to, or roll out, their digital services.

“The additional funding for digital radio comes at a critical period for the sector and will assist to maintain metropolitan digital radio services and the planned extension of digital radio to Canberra, Darwin and Hobart," Community Broadcasting Association of Australia CEO Jon Bisset said.

“The sector will need this increased level of funding on an ongoing basis to support regional expansion of digital radio and we appreciate the Government's commitment to supporting these next steps.”

See the budget appraisal of the arts and communications portfolio here.

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