Just Say No

Finally, finally a group of brave, courageous, forward-thinking politicians and bureaucrats have come together to address a problem that has plagued arts audiences for years, generations, maybe even millennia.

To move with such unaccustomed speed, determination, and collective agreement the complaints from audiences around the EU must have been overwhelming. There must have been millions of letters, petitions, emails, faxes, and staged protests.

As covered in our festival news story this week, the European Commission has banned extracting words that misrepresent a reviewer’s overall point of view. Yes, the EU has brought to bear their mission and the international rule of law to rid the globe of — exaggeration.

Covering the news of the “Unfair Commercial Practices Directive,” Stephen Castle of the Independent wrote from Brussels, the goal is to “make it illegal to extract a positive word or phrase from a theatre review if that paints a misleading picture of the article as a whole.”

How can anyone say that the EU is not living up to its latest motto, “Working for You”?

According to Helen Kearns, European Commission spokeswoman on consumer affairs, the new edict will be “policed on a case-by-case basis by the Office of Fair Trading.”

Maybe it is in honor of May Day that one can chant, Critics of the world - unite! No longer do critics have to rely on the power of newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and the Internet for providing a platform for their especially informed, enlightened, and important points of view. Now, they also have the power of the EU courts when their work is misinterpreted for someone else’s profit!

Gee. I bet there are a lot of artists who see the truth in reverse: Critics can misinterpret the artists’ work for critics’ own profit.

Take a moment to think about the staff needed to cross-check the adverts, marquees, and publicity materials against the original published reviews for shows throughout the European Union. You can’t say that the Brussels-based bureaucrats aren’t hard at work to make a better world.

Or, can the police process begin simply with a critic complaining? Do you think a critic would ever have the motive of exaggerating their own victimization merely for their own publicity?

Here’s a thought to equalize the equation, and keep the willing-to-do-more-work-EU in step with reality: The next Unfair Commercial Practices Directive would be to ban getting paid for writing reviews that misrepresent an artist’s work.

Now, that would be “Genius!”

- Bill Reichblum

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