The president of the Sgae: “The Minister of Culture has not done enough to face the crisis”

The president of the Sgae: “The Minister of Culture has not done enough to face the crisis”

Antonio Onetti shows his concern for the audiovisual sector and criticizes Rodríguez Uribes' lack of leadership during the pandemic

The president of the Sgae:

Since last April 30, the film and television playwright and scriptwriter Antonio Onetti (Seville, 1962) has held the position of president of the General Society of Authors and Publishers (SGAE), a “hot seat” that has already seen seven presidents over the last decade, marked by all kinds of scandals, corrupt plots and abuses of power. Aspiring to be elected on two occasions, he lost in both cases to José Miguel Fernández Sastrón, accused in the 'Rueda' case, and to Pilar Jurado, who was dismissed after a motion of censure led by Onetti.

Now, the scriptwriter of Amar en times troubled and films such as GAL or El Lobo, wants to lead the new board of directors that comes out of the elections to be held in October, while dealing with the effects of the pandemic on the cultural fabric, the intervention of the entity announced by the former Minister of Culture, José Guirao, and the expulsion for bad practices from CISAC, the international organization that brings together copyright management entities.

How has the coronavirus crisis affected the world of culture? I am especially concerned about the authors in the first place, but also about the cultural fabric, which is the ecosystem in which we develop our work. I'm talking about theater companies, entertainment venues, festivals, film production companies, music groups … All this fabric is suffering catastrophically right now. What we ask is to have conditions similar to those that are being experienced in transport, it seems that spending three hours on a train does not entail risks and instead in a theater where you cannot drink or eat and do not even speak during an hour and a half, yes. How do you assess the management by Minister Uribes? Many groups accuse him of inaction … The most important thing is that criteria are established so that these aid that are coming from Europe also have an impact on a sector that, remember, represents between 3 and 4 percent of the GDP of this country and that you need enough support to survive. We have given aid directly to the authors and we have done everything we can in solidarity with the world of hospitality, but there are many stores that will not be able to reopen. We need everything that is culture to function at full capacity again and that is direct management of the Ministry of Culture, with Mr. Uribes at the helm. I think you have to live up to your responsibilities. This is what we all hope. So you disapprove of his management? Do you think you have not done enough? I believe that not enough has been done, more can be done. And the minister should lead more in such a situation. This is what I miss. What in your opinion are the most urgent measures? Tax exemptions are fine, but what we urgently need is direct aid. We are faced with a spectacular lack of income and maintenance of overheads in most cases unsustainable. People have had to continue paying the mortgage, the rents of the premises, the supplies, face payrolls or raise ERTES … and yet they have had no income. In addition, it is necessary to adapt to all these new regulations that also entail an increase in expenses.At the beginning of the crisis, the SGAE spoke of direct aid of between 7 and 15 million to authors and, finally, they could only be made effective 2.5 million. What happened so that such a drastic reduction was given? It is not that there was a reduction, it is that what was announced at a given moment did not conform to reality. What we have then contributed is what we could really get to. We have put an austerity plan in place since the pandemic began and one of the objectives is to be able to continue taking some items to support the perpetrators directly. We made a batch of aid effective at the beginning, but now we are going to return to a critical situation in which the authors will need more income. We will have to get money from under the stones, with the difference that now we are suffering from the lack of income. How much has collection fallen in these months? At the beginning of the pandemic we calculate a 30 percent drop in income. But of course, that was the first wave. Right now we do not know the scope that this second wave may have, where it will lead us, and we do not have a definitive forecast. That 30 percent was quite generous at the beginning, I don't think it will go up much more, but it will increase. And that does not endanger the viability of the entity? In no case. What should the Sgae do to recover its good name? Isn't the Sgae brand too stained to be able to re-float it? What we have to do is adapt our operation to the cleanliness, transparency, traceability and equanimity required of us from all institutions. I believe that a Board of Directors will emerge from the elections that will continue in that line. In this sense, the change of statutes has been fundamental and that the presidency is not executive, but representative, because that will allow us that the political part of the house does not have an interference in the day to day. What do you think about creation of new rights management entities such as SEDA? We think it is great that there are different management entities, because it is good that there is competition and it forces us to provide the best services to our partners. What does seem fundamental to me is that all entities that compete do so on equal terms. And there we are very surprised that SEDA is granted the license with statutes that are very far from complying with the requirements of the intellectual property law and the European directive, which is what was attributed to us. I am also concerned that its entire operating system, that is, who is going to distribute, will be the French entity SACEM. In the end, this means that we are granting a foreign entity the possibility of managing our cultural heritage in our country. That would be nonsense. Do you consider it fair to continue to charge the fee for private copying? Don't you think it should be reviewed given the reduction in piracy and the new forms of audiovisual consumption? We suffer a fairly significant loss compared to what is usual in Europe. In this sense, the impact on our income is much less with Spanish regulations in relation to how it is done in neighboring countries. So I don't think we have to reduce the fee, on the contrary, private copying should make a lot more money, at least to equalize the countries around us. We are far below the ladder in that sense. In the case of streaming platforms, authors' complaints about the very low benefit they report are constant, despite having thousands or even millions of reproductions. Does the Sgae plan to make a move in this regard? Right now the rates we have with them are similar to those of the rest of Europe and yes, they seem very low, but that negotiation must be done at more global levels. What is a more serious problem is the opacity with which these companies usually work, which makes it very difficult for management entities and authors to verify whether the information they provide is real. In all sectors there are mechanisms to contrast the figures, there is a control to confirm that there have been so many people in theaters or that so many records have been sold. How do you count how many users have seen an episode of a Netflix series? There is no way. This forces us to make a technological effort to find formulas that allow us to identify these reproductions, so that what they pay corresponds to the actual use and consumption of the works on these platforms. The great copyright niche of the future is digital, and there those companies are way ahead of us. Not only from the SGAE, but from all entities. We have to bet on getting up to date, reaching agreements with other entities to be able to exert some pressure and that the authors do not feel helpless.

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