Empty Nightclub

Howard Keith Debono, president of the Malta Entertainment Industry and Artists Association Howard Keith Debono recently took to Facebook to highlight some of the problems he claims have “piled up, swept aside and even ignored” – and he held nothing back.

Mr Debono started by saying that “no one listened” as to what needed to be done to mitigate sound pollution – a topic that has recenty made headlines due to a conflict between Valletta residents, businesses, the local council and Government on the extension of the time establishments in the capital can continue playing music as a “moderate level” on the streets.

The promoter, producer and television show judge said that the new law – as others regulating noise in Malta – is lacking, despite the “free advice given all the time from numerous experiences in other countries”.

The issue with noise is compounded by the lack of professional venues, Mr Debono says, adding that what makes matters worse is that “venues which cost millions are unfortunately useless in terms of practicality because no consultation happened with the stakeholders”.

Mr Debono then turns his attention to the use of public money, citing “numerous claims” about “unjust funding distribution for events and the non-level playing field which has been created”.

The inflated public payroll the taxpayer must make good for (and that of private outfits financed by the public) is described as “one of the financial burdens of our country… and unfortunately some aren’t there because of their work experience and CV”.

Additionally, considerable funds are spent on certain events or projects which are “simply not sustainable”.

“One would expect a detailed account to the public of how much is spent on a costly events and who were the recipients, and to have KPIs applied to measure the performance followed by accountability,” Mr Debono wrote.

“This is the standard our industry deserves. Errors with public funding eat up from the little funds there is to have equal and fair distribution and maximise accordingly. It gets the industry, who risk their savings, eventually disheartened.”

Industry stakeholders face two main challenges due to the Government’s involvement in the sector. One is the competition for the same limited audience, and another is the competition for even more limited personnel, who often end up either getting poached by the Government entity or setting their eye on a public sector job as the “golden prize”.

“The result of distorted prices is not sustainable unless these issues are addressed,” argued Mr Debono. “In most cases, those who choose the more difficult route of being self employed/ independent should be rewarded and facilitated, yet what seems to be happening is when they do ask for that little help to take their project or event up a notch, they’re being told there are no funds left”.

Finally, Mr Debono also calls out the lack of effort in audience development, pointing out that little has been done to teach appreciation for the arts.

“Let’s be proud of our heritage as a nation and what makes us Maltese,” he said,” and not be blinded by all those wrong things we might have inherited through the years.”

“I say all the above points respectfully and with good intentions to address the elephant in the room before the room actually explodes.”

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