The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has released its first report on the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors.
MPs have said that the Government has been ‘too slow’ to respond to the needs of the DCMS sectors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and have underestimated the challenge our sectors face, leaving many organisations facing an “existential threat” to their survival.
They say this has come from a combination of a lack of spending power and a fundamental misunderstanding of the needs, structures, and social contribution of the cultural sectors.
The report suggested that cultural industries are facing closures and redundancies that might have been avoided, and that the Government’s £1.57 billion support package took too long to be announced.
The report also highlighted the need for tailored measures for certain creative industries, with around two thirds of those working in the music industry and theatres being self-employed.
The report’s key recommendations were based on over 660 material submissions, including submissions from SOLT & UK Theatre and include the following:
- A sector-specific recovery deal for performing arts that includes continued workforce support measures, including enhanced measures for freelancers and small companies.
- Clear, if conditional, timelines for reopening, and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing.
- Long-term structural support to rebuild audience figures and investment.
- Government should introduce flexible, sector specific versions of the CJRS and SEISS guaranteed for the creative industries until their work and income returns to sustainable levels. Any such measures should account for the differences in timeframes for the easing Covid-19 restrictions across the four nations.
- Support for the self-employed should be urgently reviewed and amended so that it covers people who have been excluded to date.
- Cut in VAT on ticket sales for theatre and live music is extended beyond January 2021, for the next three years.
- The Government should extend Theatre Tax Relief to 50% for the next three years and introduce a Music Tax Relief.
The report also noted the need for more specific timescales in the re-opening plan for theatre, acknowledging that telling venues they can re-open with only a few days’ or weeks’ notice doesn’t address the lead times for performances or the challenges of planning and implementing social distancing procedures. They recommend:
- Government should publish a ‘no earlier than’ date for stage five of its plan to reopen performing arts venues.
- Cultural Renewal Taskforce must co-ordinate cross-sector work on technological solutions for mass gatherings, ensuring the sports and entertainment sectors work together, alongside NHS Test and Trace, to develop a universal, technological solution to enable the safe return of ticket holders to events.
Julian Bird, Chief Executive of Society Of London Theatre and UK Theatre said:
“We welcome this new report from the DCMS Select committee, especially their key recommendations. We wholeheartedly support the report’s call for Government to publish a “no earlier than” date now for stage five of the plan to reopen performing arts venues. Telling venues they can reopen with just a few days’ or weeks’ notice does not address the lead times for performance, the challenges of social distancing or the concerns about audience behaviours.
“We also support the report’s recommendation to cut VAT on ticket sales for theatre beyond January 2021 and for Government to extend Theatre Tax Relief to 50% for the next three years. We continue to work collaboratively with the Cultural Renewal Taskforce to co-ordinate cross-sector work and explore technological solutions to enable the safe return of ticket holders to events.”