Tag: angers

‘Crass’ government ad angers U.K. arts workers hit hard by covid-19

“I agree it was crass,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted on Monday, adding that his staff were not involved in the advertisement, which was part of a “partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security.”

Reactions to the advertisement dovetailed with broader criticism that officials have not found ways to communicate effectively with workers facing tenuous employment during the pandemic. Fatboy Slim, a popular British DJ and music producer, said that the government was “throwing the arts under a bus.”

The anger came after beta version of a quiz developed by the British government to help people prepare for career changes became the subject of gallows humor among arts workers last week. The Department of Education quiz asked 50 questions to help respondents decide what careers might best suit them.

But those who took the quiz were often perturbed by the suggestions. This reporter took the test last week and was advised to consider a new career in boxing or as a soccer referee. On Twitter, other users shared images of recommendations that they become lock keepers or airline pilots.

The ballet advertisement, published on the website of training firm QA, appeared to suggest that a ballet dancer named Fatima could soon have a job in cybersecurity, although she did not yet know it.

It was part of a campaign dubbed “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” — part of CyberFirst, a program launched in 2019 by Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre that encourages young people to get training for careers related to technology.

But for many in the British creative and arts industries, it was interpreted as a further sign that the government did not support them amid venue closures and dwindling opportunities.

Others retweeted the image with a hashtag for “Save the Arts,” a campaign to help support the industry during the pandemic.

The advertisement went viral as Britain’s Royal Ballet returned after seven months without a major production, for a three-hour live-streamed performance from the Royal Opera House featuring 70 dancers on Friday.

Live music and theater, some of Britain’s best known cultural exports, have suffered during the pandemic. In July, the government announced a $2 billion stimulus package to provide emergency grants and loans to venues forced to close or scale back operations.

The British government announced this week that more than $326 million of grants given to more than 1,300 arts organizations, including famous venues like the Young Vic in London. But many performers say that the government has not done enough.

Asked last week about the hard choices facing musicians, artists and actors, British Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak, the face of Britain’s economic response to covid-19, said many workers would have to “adapt and adjust to the new reality.”

“I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis,” Sunak said during an interview with ITV News.

The “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” campaign on the QA website

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E.U. rule-of-law report angers Hungary, Poland

The release of the report coincided with a preliminary agreement by European diplomats to tie access to E.U. funds to respecting the rule of law, as negotiations on a $2.1 trillion E.U. spending package accelerate in the coming weeks. Defenders of principles such as an independent judiciary and a free press have accused the European Union of enabling illiberal leaders by failing to cut off the money that props them up.

“We are trying to open a new chapter in defending and promoting the rule of law in the E.U.,” said Vera Jourova, the bloc’s rule-of-law chief. “Deficiencies often merge into an undrinkable cocktail, even if individual ingredients seem to be fine.”

The European Union was founded as a club of democracies, but it has struggled to intervene over the past decade as leaders in Hungary and Poland backed away from democratic commitments.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has imposed stringent controls over his country’s judiciary, channeled public advertising funds to pro-government media outlets and squelched opportunities for opposition voices to operate within Hungarian society.

And since Poland’s Law and Justice party won power in 2015, it has taken steps to place political allies inside courtrooms, convert publicly funded media outlets into pro-government mouthpieces and threaten critics with legal peril.

“Poland’s justice reforms since 2015 have been a major source of controversy,” the E.U. report said. The report also characterized judicial independence in Hungary as “a source of concern.”

Both governments have already faced the threat of E.U. sanctions for their actions, but they have been able to use voting rules to defend each other and stifle significant consequences.

Each has complained about being singled out unfairly by fellow leaders for actions they say are legitimate because they were empowered by their citizens to run their countries.

In part as a response to those criticisms, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, decided to assemble portfolios about every country in the bloc, cataloguing the state of corruption, checks and balances, justice and media freedom in sometimes dry legalese. Each country will face more detailed audits in the coming months and years.

Poland and Hungary came in for the toughest criticism, but the report also voiced concerns about corruption and the independence of the judiciary in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.

Of those countries, all but Malta are former members of the communist bloc. But even countries with longer histories of democracy came in for some criticism: Austria, for example, was dinged for a lack of rules on how its government allocates its relatively high levels of state advertising to private media outlets.

Hungarian and Polish leaders both blasted the effort, saying they would found their own international rule-of-law institute to impose some counterprogramming on what they said was a biased message from E.U. headquarters in Brussels.

Orban on Tuesday denounced Jourova for an interview she gave to Germany’s Spiegel newsweekly last week. In it, she said: “Mr. Orban is fond of saying

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