This month, Netflix moved one step closer to media domination, launching its streaming service in 130 countries, bringing the total number of countries-where-one-can-watch-Netflix to 190, including India and Russia. (Notably missing: Indonesia, which banned the service because of its “unfiltered content.”) With some 70 million users and dozens of award-winning original series, the streaming giant is causing some in Hollywood to freak out. (Cable, meanwhile, is already in full-fledged panic mode with cord-cutting numbers rising dramatically.) But Netflix is only part of the story: Amazon, which closed 2015 with more US subscribers than Netflix, and earned serious accolades for its original series Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, and Man In The High Castle, is now elbowing its way into film distribution. At Sundance this month, Amazon outbid Sony Pictures Classics, Universal, Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate to nab the Matt Damon-produced drama Manchester by the Sea. This is part of a larger trend of streaming services outbidding traditional theatrical distributors and is a major reversal from last year, when both Amazon and Netflix were shut out of the Sundance bidding, indicating streaming services are gaining ground not just with the casual watcher at home, but with directors, producers and actors on the international stage.
Canada Council commits to diversity regulations with teeth. Last June, the Canada Council for the Arts announced a major restructuring of its grant making programs, with plans to reduce its 147 separate programs–each with its own guidelines, deadlines and reporting–to six. The model will go live in April 2017, in honor of the Council’s 60th anniversary. Details of the plan emerged this past month, and the most interesting–and perhaps even radical–of them is the fact that the Council has decided to include diversity among the list of criteria considered when making recommendations of grants and grant amounts. For institutions with revenue of more than $2 million, the diversity of the arts “on stage” as well as that of the team “behind the curtain” will be judged. If your institution does not demonstrate a “commitment to reflecting the diversity of your organization’s geographic community or region,” this will now affect the size of grant received from the federal arts council. If the liberal government keeps its campaign promise, the Council’s annual budget will grow to $360 million over the next two years–enough for the Council to have a real impact on the diversity of the country’s arts organizations. The Council’s decision follows that of Arts Council England, which made a similar shift to towards increasing diversity in December 2014 (though organizations there have until 2018 to get in line.) The United States is not quite there yet, but the nation’s two largest cities seem to be laying groundwork in place: in New York, a survey by the Department of Cultural Affairs released this month indicated that by and large the city’s arts organizations do not reflect the city’s diversity, and Los Angeles County recently formed an advisory committee to examine “proposals that would lead to more diverse arts boards, staff, audience members, and programming at appropriate arts institutions.”
#OscarsStillSoWhite…but not for long? In what the LA Times described as “another embarrassing Hollywood sequel,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced for the second year in a row a roster of all-white acting nominees (and no best picture nominations for films focusing on minority populations despite various viable options). This prompted a resurgence of the 2015 hashtag #OscarsSoWhite (and the birth of its offspring #OscarsStillSoWhite), with actors such as Will Smith pledging to boycott the February 28 awards ceremony or calling for host Chris Rock to step aside. The Academy’s board and President Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded with an emergency meeting that resulted in a unanimous vote for “radical changes” with the goal of doubling the number of female and minority members by 2020. These include plans for reviewing and possibly revoking the voting status of the (94% white) lifelong members who are less active in the motion picture industry to make way for more diverse voters; an “ambitious, global” recruitment campaign (as opposed to the old small group nomination system); and the addition of three new board seats (to hopefully be filled by members of color). Though this year’s still-so-white Oscars announcement, and the Academy’s sweeping response, provoked a flurry of media attention (even a statement by President Obama), as we documented in our 2015 annual news roundup, Hollywood has been slowly waking up to the need to do something about its diversity problem over the past year. Despite grumbles from some established Academy members, the overall 2016 public and institutional reaction is in sharp contrast to Jesse Jackson’s failed 1996 protest against a similarly homogenous Oscars lineup. While the effectiveness of the Academy’s latest measures remains to be seen, one can be sure that the organization’s diversity efforts will receive some red-carpet-worthy scrutiny.
Philadelphia Media Network donated to the Philadelphia Foundation. In October, as part of a larger story on alt-weeklies and their perhaps dubious future, we noted that Philadelphia’s beloved City Paper had published its last edition. Philadelphia journalism captures our attention once again this month, but for much better reason. In a surprise move, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the sole owner of the Philadelphia Media Network, gifted the PMN, which runs The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com website, to the Institute for Journalism in New Media, a subsidiary of the Philadelphia Foundation. It’s the first time a major local newspaper has gone “nonprofit” since the advent of the internet, and the structure is certainly complicated. While unique and untested, the new alignment has the promise to preserve and enhance public-interest reporting while new electronic distribution methods are developed. The nonprofit status is not yet a done deal (the IRS has yet to weigh in), and the new format won’t necessarily solve outright the newspapers’ varied struggles. However, with newspapers continuing to struggle across the board, if this unusual structure is successful, it’s possible other papers will follow suit.
New directions at the Irvine Foundation. For the past year, James Irvine Foundation president Don Howard has been leading his staff in an deep exploration of what the foundation might change or do better. (You can read many of the responses to this question here and here, and Diane Ragsdale’s response, which pushes back against the foundation’s perspective that arts engagement is the most important issue facing the arts, here.) The foundation, which is the largest funder of the arts in California, has in recent years focused its resources on three areas, (1) engaging in the arts; (2) advancing democracy in California; and (3) preparing youth for success. Now, the foundation has announced an evolving focus: “expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty.” This new direction seems squarely focused on two of those three areas, with the arts notably absent. The foundation has made assurances that it will remain committed to current grantees for the time being, and work continues apace on several existing programs, including the Arts Regional Initiative which just published a new report. In the long term, however, the arts’ role seems much murkier; a response to an inquiry about continuing arts support promises only that the foundation is “excited to explore how new initiatives focused on creative expression and the arts can be part of new initiatives aligned with our evolving focus.”
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Bruce W. Davis has been named President and CEO of ArtsKC, Kansas City’s regional arts council.
- Charles Thomas, an experienced social entrepreneur and civic innovator, will join the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as a program director based in Charlotte.
- The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, invites applications for a full-time lecturer faculty position in the area of arts management. Posted January 23; no closing date.
- The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage hiring a Senior Visual Arts Specialist. Posted January 26; no closing date.
- ArtsKC is hiring a Director of Programs and Grants to replace the retiring Paul Tyler. Closing date February 26.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- A research article published in AERA Open this month lends new evidence to argument for the benefits of arts engagement at an early age.
- Ingenuity’s third State of the Arts in Chicago Public Schools released this month details the arts assets available to CPS students in the 2014-15 school year.
- A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies released this month suggests implementing diversity training programs does not actually increase diversity. On the flip side, a report published by Stanford Graduate School of Education found that at-risk high school students benefit from taking ethnic studies classes, which introduce a diversity of perspectives and may better align with personal cultural experience.
- New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman’s office sheds light on widespread abuses in ticketing industry in New York.
- A white paper from the National Center for Arts Research at Southern Methodist University examines the distinguishing characteristics of arts organizations that primarily serve communities of color, in a response to the widely discussed (and criticized) report from the DeVos Institute on the same topic last year.
- Move over TV: Repucom, which researches sports and entertainment markets, surveyed adults between 13 and 34 in Britain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States and found that music is the top leisure interest for the millennial generation.
- Linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer analyzed all the dialogue from the Disney princess franchise and found that even in movies where the princess is the protagonist, male roles speak more than female roles.
- A few studies this month looked at art through a city lens. One, published in the academic journal Economic Development Quarterly, looks at the links between big performing arts organizations (those with budgets over $2 million) and the change in what Richard Florida defines at the ‘creative class’. A report commissioned by the Boston Foundation shows Boston trails other cities in institutional arts funding, and the Three-City Arts Study, released by Partners for Sacred Spaces, provides a scalable, replicable model for matching small to mid-size dance and theater companies having space needs with historic sacred places that have available space.
- Two reports this month looked at the contemporary art market. One, released by economics professors at the University of Luxembourg suggests that the international art market is overheating, creating the potential for a “severe correction” in the postwar and contemporary and American segments. Another looks at what kind of person who opens a private contemporary art museum.
- And finally, looking to the international stage, UNESCO released a report on the impact of the “Convention on Protection & Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions,” and the 2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report provided insight into the global NGO sector and its use of online technology.