Monday 23 March 2020 4:19 pm

Coronavirus: MPs call for emergency funding for cultural organisations

MPs today called for urgent government support for cultural organisations hit by closures and postponements due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Tate galleries, V&A and Natural History Museum are among scores of cultural institutions that have been forced to close their doors due to the pandemic.

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The National Trust yesterday reversed its decision to keep its parks and gardens open amid concerns people were ignoring government advice on social distancing.

UK theatres and cinemas have also been shuttered, while all English football fixtures have been suspended.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee today called on the government to provide emergency funding for affected organisations, as well as extra support for the charitable sector and tourism.

Chair Julian Knight also said the government should use public service broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to air messages telling people how to behave in a responsible way to stem the spread of the virus.

“Visual images of social distancing would make guidelines crystal clear and underline the urgency,” Knight said.

“With a brief window to act, public information broadcasts across our TV and radio networks would get the message across fast.”

The creative industries are particularly vulnerable to disruption caused by coronavirus due to the sector’s reliance on freelancers, self-employed workers and casual workers.

While chancellor Rishi Sunak has outlined measures to support employees who cannot work due to the pandemic, the government is facing pressure from business groups to extend this support to self-employed people.

The committee also questioned why the government had not intervened to postpone sporting fixtures and sought confirmation that any club that had taken individual action would be eligible for support.

It asked for confirmation on arrangements for major upcoming sporting events, including Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix.

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In addition, MPs called for guarantees that charities will not be forced to stop work due to the crisis and asked whether tourism companies would be given access to government loans or other emergency support.

“Whether you’re a casual worker affected by a cancellation or closure or a charity hit by a cash flow problem, you need help,” Knight said. “We’re calling on ministers to make emergency funding available now.”