Letter: Arts Council pays the piper but doesn't call the tune

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The Independent Online
IF WE musicians played as much codswallop as you journalists write, Geoffrey Wheatcroft in particular, there would be no orchestras in London ('Less could be much more', 14 November). Hardest to swallow is the condescension shown towards musicians. Even Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is so much inconsequential dust to be kicked under the carpet. A musician's training is as rigorous as a surgeon's, and our practice and study as intensive.

So, in response, here is my plan for the quality press. The country cannot afford the hidden subsidy of zero-rated VAT (a tax break not enjoyed by orchestras and concert-goers) to all four newspapers. On a notional quality newspaper (cost 50p, circulation 500,000) this costs the Exchequer about 9p per newspaper bought - pounds 45,000 a day, or about pounds 14m a year - enough to keep another Covent Garden afloat]

Selectively withdraw this subsidy from two newspapers. Overpriced, compared with the newspapers with the intact subsidy, their circulation would dwindle, the best people would leave, they would wither and die. This would leave two world-beating newspapers with enlarged circulation, able to attract the best journalistic talent and able, with a more captive audience, to be more adventurous. No more tired stale performances of 'Royal Family', which you trot out with more monotony than we do '1812'.

John Wallace

Royal Academy of Music

London NW1

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