The winners of the Goya awards, the prestigious Spanish film prize, in 2011. (Efe)
The financial crisis and the strict budget cuts have had a negative effect on the Spanish cultural sector, affecting thousands of people working with film, music, acting and writing.
The whole industry represents about 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Five years of financial crisis, and the introduction of the harshest budget in Spain for decades, have put in motion a storm that has had a devastating effect on the whole sector.
Among the cultural and creative industries not one goes free from the cuts, including the music industry, the film industry, theatres and the publishing sector.
Together, these sector represent about 4 percent of Spain’s GDP and creates jobs for over half a million people. The different guilds now request specific economic help from the government.
The statistics from 2009, which are the most recent numbers available, show that the cultural activities and the activities related to intellectual property during the first decade of the century represented about 3.9 percent of GDP on average, amounting to almost €38bn and about 750,000 jobs.
During the last years, however, the cultural sector has been hit hard by the crisis and the budget for the cultural sector this year will be cut by 15.1 percent.
According to the Fundación Ideas, the think tank of the Spanish Socialist party, about 60,000 jobs could be lost if these budget adjustments continue during the next four years.
The film industry
In the audiovisual sector, the unemployment rate increased by 9.3 percent in 2011. In April that year, the total number of ongoing film productions was 33, compared to 63 at the same time a year earlier, and the number of Spanish films dropped from 55 to 35. At the same time, the box office sale fell by 16 percent.
Despite this, Pedro Pérez, president of the Federation of Spanish Audiovisual Producers Associations (FAPAE), believes in the capacity of the sector.
“In Spain, too many films were produced and the resources were badly used,” he said. “Now we have adjusted the number of films to the market demand.”
Despite the image of the film industry as a sector that is excessively dependent on state subsidies, Pérez recalled that only €16 out of €100 invested in Spanish films come from public subsidies.
This year, the government has calculated that €49m will be spent on subsidies to the film industry, but it remains to be seen whether the governing centre-right Popular party will change the model and put an end to the subsidies, which was an election campaign promise, in change for tax reductions by up to 40 percent.
On the other hand, Pérez is waiting for the Spanish national TVE, which, once it stops competing with the audiences of the private channels, will provide resources to the Spanish film industry that until now has been spent on buying rights to US films and to sports events.
The music industry
In the music industry, people started talking about a crisis already during the last decade, already during the years of growth and before the economic bubble burst.
“For every tenth CD that we bought in Spain at the beginning of the decade, we now only buy two, including the digital sales,” said Antonio Guisasola, president of Promisicae, which represents music producers in Spain.
In its long battle against “piracy,” the sector now faces new threats, such as the decline of live music because of the lack of resources.
The abolition of the ‘digital canon’
“They told us that live music would save the sector,” Guisasola said, “but the fact is that today it has almost stopped completely and there are enormous difficulties for the musicians to maintain it as a proper job. The term 'salary' almost doesn’t exist in this profession. Do we want to keep ignoring that the culture is based on a group of entrepreneurs without any protection?”
At Promusicae there are also complaints about the lack of public aid, compared to “the ones they receive in other cultural areas,” as well as the late introduction of the controversial law against piracy, the so-called Sinde-Wert law, or the elimination of the so-called ‘digital canon,’ a tax on the digital storage devises such as CDs, DVDs, etc.
The PP government eliminated this tax in its second ministerial council, and instead included a compensation in the general budget. However, the public accounts that were approved by the Congress of Deputies did not include any such funds, and in the Senate, PP only included an amendment of €5m, a large difference to the €100m that was expected by the entities that manage intellectual rights.
“After some time during which the job losses have stabilized in the sector, we have now begun to receive news every day about new dismissals” Guisasola said.
Book sales dropped by 10 percent
In the publishing sector, the book sale in stores dropped about 10 percent on an annual level since 2010. In that year, the publishing sector gained about €3bn.
“Until now, it seemed as we were managing well against the storm, but the feeling in 2012 is that it is getting worse,” said Fernando Valverde, president of the federation of Spanish publishers. “We still haven’t touched the bottom and we can’t see the end.”
He expects a further drop by 12 percent this year, and he also said the development of electronic books has slowed down.
The public sector doesn’t help to overcome these difficulties, given that the state has reduced to a minimum the purchase of books for public libraries, universities and schools, according to Antonio María Ávila, executive director of the Federation of Publishing Guilds in Spain.
Also, the autonomous regions have cut the contributions for text books, and for instance, the region of Valencia still owes €22m for these costs.
When it comes to theatres and musicals, the state budget provides €89.7m for music and dance, and €45.1m for theatre.
Also, the majority of the plays take place in public theatres and on public stages, which means that the public funds are of great importance for this sector, which contributed with €1.8bn to the GDP in 2009.
However, it is not until the crisis is over that it will be possible to see in which state the cultural sector will end up, a sector that is not only important economically, but also for the image of Spain.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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