GUEST COLUMN – Stop begging!
I was first introduced to the group MADD nearly 30 years ago by Annette Nias. I believe they were then students at Combermere School.
Within a few years, the public of Barbados were enamoured of their zany humour rooted deeply in Bajan culture.
There was no doubt in my mind that here were a group the most talented I had and have seen in Barbados. Their records were hilarious and flowed over with biting satire and social commentary.
More impressive than the group as a unit was the individual brillianceof their main writer and composer Eric Lewis.
I was so impressed with this Bajan Mark Twain, I asked the then editorof the Advocate to invite
him to write a weekly column, which unfortunately he initially refused, but subsequently accepted, and has been sharing his views of the Bajan condition ever since.
MADD established Bacchanal Time as a platform for their performances at Crop Over and it is perhaps the most successful of all such endeavours.
It is therefore with great surprise that I read an article in THE NATION headlined Let Down By Government On VAT. I want to deal with two points in this article.
1. Why should Government waive VAT for a business enterprise that has been in existence for over 25 years or more? It is not for Government to find a solution for VAT for Bacchanal Time. MADD/Bacchanal Time is a business enterpriseand should after 25 years behave like a business.
Twenty-five years ago it used to be argued that Entertainment Tax should be abolished. So what I am hearing is that nothing has changed since 1986.
I am not buying that.
They seem to have considered that their talents are only for the 300 000 people. Stop begging! What about the five million that live in the English-speaking Caribbean? For over 25 years these talented guys have remained passive watching Saturday Night Live on television, learning nothing from that experience.
They have watched Kings Of Comedy, the Comedy Channel, and seen how John Stewart and Steven Colbert made a mockery of the news.
But have you seenIty & Fancy Cat?
Their shows have been perennially very successful, but what investments have MADD/Bacchanal Time made to strengthen this comedy business of theirs? Whereare the television shows?
Where are the DVDs? Where are the radio shows?
Who are their agent and their business manager? Where is their business plan? How many shows a year do they produce? What tours have they done?
The economic climate has nothing to do with what they do. If they reduce their admission price, they will reduce the quantum of VAT, if that is what is bothering them. Why can’t they form a MADD/Bacchanal Time Club and let their fans pay monthly dues to be members, which would also entitle them to see additional shows during the year.
They can certainly look at areas where VAT is not required and incorporate them into their operations.
The public perception is right: “you are beggars”. They need to use their creative powers to solve what they see as problems.
2. Having said that, I don’t want you, dear reader and/or MADD/Bacchanal Time to think that government does not have an obligationto help foster and strengthen artistic development.
It has a responsibility to every citizen and resident of Barbados to provide the opportunities and the option for them to develop their talents.
This implies that the citizens of the country should also know and understand their heritage and the uniqueness of that heritage.
We are not a developed country in spite of our international rankings. There is lots of room for improvement.
When all television and radio stations were granted licences by the Barbados Government, they were required by law to provide Government with ten per cent of their broadcast time for whatever Government wants it for.
This was not an option, it was a requirement. This is a major asset that has been wasted and ignored by Governments over the last 50 years.
What this means is that Government is entitled to two hours and 24 minutes on CBCTV and on every TV channel on the cable network that it owns. It is also entitled to the same amount of time on all four radio stations operated by CBC.
Furthermore, it is also entitled to the same time on each of the five radio stations operated by the Trinidadian-owned Starcom Network and its cable TV network, the four radio stations operated by Anthony Bryan, the Barbados Advocate and Barbados Broadcasting Service, the radio station operated by the Weatherheads, the new radio station operated by Mr Elias, and the tourist-targeted
TV station that tourists don’t watch. Please note very carefully that CBC and Starcom generated enough income during Crop Over over the last decade to give away multiple motor vehicles.
A good question to ask is this: did Government waive duties, taxes and/or VAT for the purchase of these motor vehicles?
Contact Erica Smith at COSCAP and find out the royalties that these stations, nightclubs, business houses, fetes, minibuses, supermarkets paid for using the music and the events that Crop Over generates.
In addition, seek out the services of Professor Andrew Downes to update his study on Crop Over’s contribution to the national economy. This, of course, would include all of the business houses across the island.
One important fact that should be well known to all and sundry is that musicians have to depend on gate receipts to generate income. Record sales are a minimum. But understand one thing: no music, no Crop Over. Stop begging!
Finally, there are some hungry lawyers in Barbados. Tell them to read the Administrative Justice Act and use their imagination. Stop begging!
PS It was this ten per cent that I used in 1983-1986 to sell Crop Over to Bajans. The media owners can howl like wild dogs at midnight, but don’t tek dem on. It’s in their licence.
Elombe Mottley is a culture and heritage consultant and author.