Although it is undeniably easy to get occupied by issues associated with the economic downturn, there are two items of interest looming on the horizon we should be discussing that could have an enormously adverse impact on the entire business: net neutrality and health care reform. These two issues are something that can be addressed via government affairs activity on the local, state, and national levels so it is in our collective best interests to establish clear positions (you do have an active and influential government affairs apparatus don’t you?)…
Composer and friend of this blog, Alex Shapiro, authored an excellent article about net neutrality that was published at NewMuiscBox on 1/6/2010. Shapiro’s article examines the negative impact of decreased net neutrality, which she describes as “the term for an open internet that is not owned, controlled, or censored by any corporation,” on artistic freedom, but for those entrusted with marketing the performance arts, decreased neutrality (especially any sudden reactionary changes) would undoubtedly result in significantly higher marketing costs, lower ticket sales, and diminished outreach.
Not only would the business endure a sharp decline in marketing performance but there would be no alternatives that are effective and readily available in the same way the internet has served as an alternative to traditional print, broadcast, and direct mail options. Consequently, every government affairs efforts throughout the business should be delivering a message to elected representatives and related bureaucratic agencies to stand firm against any measures that would reduce net neutrality.
Health Care Reform
Undoubtedly a hot button social issue, nonprofit performing arts organizations (especially orchestras) can expect to be impacted by impending health care regulation. Even if health care reform completely fails, it is clear that health care costs, especially for mid to large budget organizations, are something that is growing beyond the capacity to control. Unfortunately, details about proposed regulation changes on a daily basis, thereby adding an additional layer of uncertainty to many organizations involved in or anticipating labor negotiations.
Levels of volatility such as these make it much more difficult for the business to craft a clear government affairs message, but that doesn’t mean the task is beyond hope. At the very least, performing arts organizations need to push elected officials to make certain that any new regulations don’t place undue burdens on nonprofit performing arts organizations. Ultimately, government affairs efforts should encourage representatives to reject measures that exempt the business from any proposed protections as well as block taxation efforts that target existing benefits or force employees to use less heath care services.