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Tuesday, 27 July, 1999, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Composers criticise classical subsidy decision
Subsidies for classical composers will soon be phased out
British composers have attacked the government's decision to back the abolition of 1.6m a year subsidy for classical musicians.

A group which represents composers such as Michael Nyman and Mark Knopfler, as well as conductor Sir Simon Rattle, said it was "extremely disappointed" with a report by the Culture Select Committee, which supports ending the subsidy.

Sir Simon Rattle: Critical of the government
A spokeswoman for the Classical Music Alliance said: "The loss of the Classical Music Subsidy strikes at the very heart of the delicate infrastructure that until now has maintained classical music as a living art form".

Composer Michael Berkeley joined criticism of the decision, saying it amounted to a "triple whammy" for classical music which threatened Britain's cultural future.

He said: "This is a sad night for the cultural health of this country. It means that composers have taken a 40% pay cut in the last year and will make it very hard for them to continue to work in Britain".

MPs ruled the subsidy 'untenable'

In the report released on Tuesday, the Culture Select Committee said the evidence from society members showed that the continuation of the subsidy was "untenable".

Royalty money from broadcasts and performances has been collected by the Performing Rights Society (PRS) for the last 50 years.

It has traditionally been given to classical music composers and publishers to supplement the meagre wages in the industry.

Now the society plans to phase out the subsidies in favour of a 1bn foundation to support new music of all genres.

The decision to abolish the subsidy followed a Monopolies & Mergers Commission investigation which said the society's system for distributing royalties was unfair.

PRS Chairman Andrew Potter welcomed the report and said: "The best prospect for the future lies in more performances, better attended, with more real value for the classical composers and publishers."

Democratic move

The move has also been welcomed as a democratic move by other parts of the music world.

The subsidy has meant that the classical sector has received 11.5% of money from live performances of all music, when less than 1% of all live performances of copyright music are estimated to be classical.

Martin Frost, chief executive of the English Folk Dance and Song Society said he supported the society's efforts to "create an even playing field".

He added that like jazz, folk music has long provided inspiration for classical composers, but receives virtually no subsidy.

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