Franceschini: "ItsArt is not improvised, it is a valid tool: it needs more promotion"

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini addressed criticism of ItsArt in the House yesterday. According to the minister, it is not an improvised tool, but a good one, however, it needs more promotion.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini responded yesterday during Question Time in the House to criticism about ItsArt, the “Netflix of culture” he strongly wanted, and at the basis of which lies an idea formulated during the first lockdown: a streaming video platform where content could be uploaded to promote Italian culture.

Bringing the issue to the minister’s attention during yesterday’s debate in the Chamber was MP Daniele Belotti of the League, who raised many of the questions on which so many have commented in recent months, including on these pages. “But how is it possible,” Belotti wondered, “to launch a digital platform to sell footage of shows, concerts, theater performances and museum tours without letting anyone know? 20 million euros were invested between the Ministry of Culture and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti for the ItsArt platform, but how much of that was invested in promotion and advertising? The result is that after five months there are few registered users and very few purchases. And fortunately you had pompously defined and launched it as the Netflix of Italian culture! By the way, Minister, you should thank the various journalists who wrote critical articles, criticizing this platform, and also the envoy Pinuccio of Striscia la notizia, who did an investigative report, because at least they made the existence of ItsArt known. Again, a private partner was chosen by focusing on Chili tv. Question: but when you made the selection, were the financial statements of the participating and selected companies checked, since, from what we read, Chili tv was not sailing in gold? Also, can you explain to us what is the phantom Roman company of 71,000 euros annual turnover that appraised the value of the technological contribution made by Chili tv?”

“First of all,” Franceschini began in his response to the Leghist deputy, “I would like to remind Mr. Belotti that the birth of ItsArt is not the result of an improvised fantasy, but is the result of a regulation that this House approved in Law July 17, 2020, no. 77, converting a decree-law, which expressly provides that, for the purpose of supporting the resumption of cultural activities, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism shall create a digital platform for the enjoyment of cultural heritage and performances, including through the participation of other public or private entities. So, it is a rule of law that the Ministry has implemented, approved by this House.”

“Secondly,” the minister went on to clarify the origins of the ItsArt project, “it was born from an idea that I find absolutely well-founded: the experience of the pandemic showed how quickly a lot of cultural content, at the time when theaters and cinemas were closed, was crafted and transferred to streaming platforms. The idea that was born and on which the norm was then approved was to have a place to offer Italian culture on cinema, theater, dance, music and all the various Italian cultural activities in streaming, to complement the live show offer, and above all to make it a vehicle for promoting Italian culture abroad. For this 10 million euros were provided for in the law and were allocated by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. From this moment on, as it should be, politics and the Ministry got out of the operation. So, the tender was made by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the choice of the partner was made through a competitive procedure, the choice of Chili tv, the establishment of the company and the choice of governance were made independently, as is right in entrepreneurial activities, because you cannot ask for politics to be outside, however, sometimes it is inside.”

“It is right that politics is outside in the editorial choices, in the choice of governance, and it was all entrusted to CDP through the new ItsArt company that is 51 percent CDP and 49 percent Chili tv,” the minister concluded. “Numbers are numbers, of course those who started out prejudiced spoke of a fiasco two days after the start. These are the numbers, which can be subject to evaluation: as of May 31, 2021 there were 1.1 million accesses to the platform, 3.5 million page views, 100,000 registered users, 95,000 hours of viewing. Can more be done? Of course a lot more can be done, the platform started a few months ago, it needs to increase and, I agree in that, more promotion needs to be done. It’s not up to the ministry to do it, I think there needs to be more dissemination and more promotion but the tool retains all its validity intact.”

Belotti, who availed himself of the right to reply, then responded to Franceschini: “It is true that it was approved here, but we contest the way it was managed, we contest the fact that a digital platform with 100,000 users, as we have heard, is nothing. He didn’t tell us how many purchases, rumor has it that it’s 50,000. The average can be what, 5 euros per purchase? It means we have, in the first five months, 300 and more per day. What do we have, 1,500 euros in collections per day? It takes us 40 years to amortize the cost of this platform! So the management is a flop, not premeditated, as they said two days after the opening, but it is an established flop after five months since the start of this platform.”

“If you wanted to support the cultural operators,” Belotti concluded, “perhaps there were other ways, also because, Minister, you have not calculated that, for example, a normal lyric-symphonic foundation or a theater (let’s exclude La Scala, which has world fame) to end up on ItsArt has to face the costs of video production, which range from 30,000 to 50,000 euros, and more. Then there are the image rights of orchestral and opera singers, which are increased. So the costs are probably not even paid for by the revenue from the views, and so we risk having given birth to yet another bandwagon that will need new capital to cover the losses. Minister, do you know who will pay for it next? Pantalone!”

Franceschini: "ItsArt is not improvised, it is a valid tool: it needs more promotion"

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