By Taiwan Association of Cultural Policy Studies (Eason Li & Cindy Huang)

Date: May 3, 2020


  1. The role of government in the arts and its response to COVID-19 in the sector: How these measures fit in a recent history of broader support to arts & culture by Taiwan’s central government (creation of the ministry of Culture, policies defined in recent years, structuration of the cultural field, budget increases…) 

Jerry Liu, President of TACPS, suggests that the establishment of Ministry of Culture, as well as the restructuring of cultural policies and departments’ responsibilities provide government with a clearer direction for formulating relief measures in the time of Covid-19 pandemic crisis. It also helped Ministry of Culture conduct investigation on target stakeholders of the relief measures, take hold of the situation in varied cultural sectors, and therefore react faster to the disease emergency. 

The increase of both regular and special cultural budget and the assurance of arm’s length principle of cultural intermediaries allow Ministry of Culture and Non-Departmental Public Bodies such as National Culture and Arts Foundation, National Performing Arts Center (NPAC), Taiwan Creative Content Agency, etc, to have greater flexibility to enact their own relief measures in different areas such as visual arts, performing arts, publication, creative industries, audiovisual and music industries, etc.

In recent years, a stronger trust was built between public sectors and cultural and arts communities due to advocacy of cultural deliberative democracy and mutual communication in the National Cultural Congress and its sequels. Furthermore, individuals in culture and arts are provided with more diverse accesses and channels (physical and digital) to express their opinions and needs. 

However, there are still limitations in terms of range, scale, speed, and effectiveness of Relief Measures for Culture and the Arts because of the insufficient cultural mapping, research, grounded percentage of budget allocation, and lack of basic data from cultural creative industries. The administrative inflexibility for cultural grant and reimbursement, long-term exclusion of self-employed and individual cultural workers from social security system, and particularly the lack of understanding from society regarding the special conditions of labor forces in culture and arts are also making the Relief Measures far more difficult.


  1. Aim & objectives of the relief measures

The Ministry is committed to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on the principle of focusing first on prevention and relief, followed by rapid revitalization efforts

The precarity of the culture sector’s workforce has become more apparent than ever due to the crisis’ workforce, societal and economic implications.

The Minister of Culture, Cheng Li-chiun, wrote on her personal social media account that the main purpose of all the measures is to help artists and employees in the arts and culture sectors receive basic support, so that their talents and enthusiasm will not be curbed. After the epidemic, the cultural industry can then be rapidly revitalized, and the ignited arts ecosystem will continue to grow. It also should be noted that actually the control of epidemic and revitalization are the two sides of one thing without difference: the first phase of the measure was mainly to alleviate the outbreak’s impact on culture and the arts. However, as the epidemic is unresolved, the relief must be expanded to provide continuous support for operations, especially to maintain art workers in the industry and their family behind.


  1. Methods followed to elaborate and carry out the plan: Consulting with professionals from various fields, and providing platforms and tools.

Tsai Chun Jen, Deputy Secretary-General of TACPS points out that Ministry of Culture reacted to COVID-19 outbreak instantly. Tsai mentions that in the week of February 19th, Ministry of Culture started to invite workers from culture and arts, arts group managers and representatives of public associations from different cultural fields to participate in consult meetings to understand the situation they encountered and helps needed during COVID-19 pandemic; himself and TACPS director Renfeng Joyce Ke both participated in the meeting. As measures were drafted, the Minister Cheng presided over the consult meeting to explain measures taken by the Ministry of Culture to arts groups in person. 

After the approval of special budget by Legislative Yuan, Ministry of Culture announced Relief Measure and graphic implication guidance right away through official websites and social media, and even hold many live stream sessions. People can make telephone consultation according to the cultural and arts categories within the Ministry of Culture. 

Meanwhile, associations and unions spontaneously published information through social networks and provide consulting services to all groups and individuals who need to apply for the bailout services in the field of cultural and arts.

In addition to the original policy plan of Ministry of Culture, the Minister coordinated with other governmental bodies like Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Labor to offer assistance such as relief loans and direct fund to labors. 

However, the impact of Covid-19 crisis was much more serious than the Ministry of Culture could imagine. The numbers of application reached 7,658 cases, in which more than 60% were from individuals. The large application numbers made subsidy process harder than Minister estimated. 

In 2013, TAERC (Taipei Art Economy Research Centre) also proposed the concept of “Asia Main Line – a focus on the major economic axis of Chinese Art” which emphasize on the economic tendency of Chinese art in these key regions and the relation with each other. The axis has been changing vastly in the five years. 

In comparison, the curve of changing has been relatively slow which shows the low motility of art market in Taipei with the international trend. According to the statistics from the “Asia Pacific Art Market Report 2016/17”, in the overview of Korean Dansaekhwa’s distribution context of cultural output in global market, from the dotted distributed solo exhibitions organized by local galleries in Korea, to U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement(KORUS) and EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, there have been more linear cooperation between cross-area galleries year by year, as well as exhibition events curated by European and US galleries, which reflects on the market behavior of total turnover of Dansaekhwa in 2016 was about $54 million USD, which is 30 times difference. 

Comparing with the Fifth Moon Art Group, the total turnover in 2016 was no more than $8 million USD, which indicates the power of export in visual art is far away behind. From this perspective, the policy shall be considered more on revitalization rather than bailout. Therefore, the three principles should be addressed: 1. To structure the system of Art Assets Appraisal; 2. To urge the standardization of scientific detection; 3. To strengthen the international trade and cultural export.


Arts and Culture Relief 2.0 © BCC
  1. Consequences in terms of the nature of financial or technical tools offered by this plan

Under the “Arts and Culture Relief 1.0” plan, the Ministry of Culture had won the inclusion of the arts and culture sectors in the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Small and Medium Enterprise Administration’s relief loan and interest subsidy scheme, providing extensions for businesses with existing loans, loans to assist with operating capital and stimulus measures, and interest payment subsidies.

With a further NT$700 million added in the move to the 2.0 plan, these subsidies are expected to grow to NT$1.8 billion, providing additional assistance for staff pay, utilities payments, and administrative costs over a three-month period. Also, in the proposed 2.0 plan, the Ministry of Culture has opened up the inclusion of larger enterprises in culture and the arts under the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ “Inter-Ministerial Funding Guarantee for NT$80 million+ ” program.

In addition to the Ministry of Culture’s budget for revitalization, cultural intermediaries such as National Performing Arts Center, Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), and National Culture and Arts Foundation also join forces to initiate their plan for future revitalization; measures including programs with postponed performances will be given funds to facilitate on-line or outdoors performance after the epidemic has eased; to expand art incubation plans to support the R&D of new productions; to start commissioning or productions plans in advance, etc. After the epidemic, the domestic team will also have priority to use the performance venue.

National Performing Arts Center also revealed its “2.0 plans” to help artists, with 4.3milion budget, venues of NPAC plans different initiatives including raising the production budget for programs it was due to host or cohost, but have been postponed or canceled, so that performance groups can continue to work on their shows and perform them when the pandemic ends. It would also offer an approximately 300-hour paid training program beginning in June. Through the NTCH’s online ticketing system, people who purchased tickets to performances that were canceled because of the pandemic can, instead of receiving a refund, choose to donate the sum they paid to the shows’ organizers. 

Apart from including movie theaters and the cinema industry in relief plans, the Ministry of Culture also hopes to establish a consultation mechanism focusing on made-in-Taiwan films and their screening opportunities after the current crisis has passed. This would include a boost in domestic film screenings from the current 10% to 20% within three years, along with regular negotiations over the next two or three years with industry representatives on how to revitalize the Taiwanese film market. Should domestic film production dip below a certain quota, new negotiations could take place the following year.


  1. Consequences in terms of expectations by artists and cultural sector in general, assessment of the global level of funding compared to real needs

According to an announcement made by the Association of the Visual Arts in Taiwan (AVAT) in March 11th, it was emphasized that the contingent workers account for about 60% of the overall art workforces. Those contingent workers do not have a stable working relationship with the organizations, and obtains remuneration through contractual appointment (in addition to contingent workers in visual arts and performing arts field, there are also writers, translators, drama consultants / staff, etc., facing economic losses are caused by the cancellation of work due to the epidemic).

At the same time, in view of the fact that art workers usually lack habit of signing written contracts for many years, some contingent workers may not be able to propose a clear proof of their working relationship with the organizations.

Therefore, in order to meet the special needs of artistic labors such as visual and performing arts, for the extension or cancellation of the international cultural and art exchange activities that are most vulnerable due to the impact of the epidemic in the visual arts, subsidy should be provided for the artist’s already paid village costs, transportation, accommodation, and conference expenses. In terms of visual and performing arts, for the postponement or cancellation of performing activities, already invested exhibitions, curatorial expenses, venue rent, clothing, props, lighting, sound and related artifacts needed for the rest of the exhibition, as well as the postponement or cancellation of various arts and cultural activities, the research fees and personnel fees already implemented during the period; all should be widely included in relief subsidies.

On the whole, it is probably fair to state that the Ministry of Culture has made its prompt efforts to provide immediate subsidies and relief measures, and it has responded relatively quick to meet the emergency needs of artists and cultural sectors in general for the first two phases. However, the subsidies only mitigated the impact, they cannot possibly absorb the entire loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The outcomes of industry revitalization measures remain unclear, as it is yet to be carried out at the later stage. 

It should also be noted that there has been mixed expectations and demands from the cultural sectors for the improvement of overall working conditions and social security system of artists in general, and it is difficult to distinguish the former from the real needs and losses of artists and cultural workers suffered in the time of Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

To assess the overall effect of the funding comparing to the global level at this stage would be premature, since the virus impact level, duration, the budget scale, new industry revitalization measures and coverage of social security system for arts and cultural system varied significantly in Taiwan, Europe and other regions. “Artists are not only indispensable, but also vital, especially now,” says Germany’s Culture Minister, Monika Grütters. This time, how different governments have dealt with the difficult situation of the arts and culture industry under the epidemic, and put forward corresponding policies, are worthy of our reference.


—— Reference ——

1. Relief measures drafted to help the arts weather COVID-19
Date:2020-02-20 Source: Ministry of Culture

To help the cultural and arts sectors deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Ministry of Culture has held several meetings to discuss short-term relief and mid- to long-term revitalization plans. The Ministry has now sent proposals to the Executive Yuan addressing four aspects, including drafting relief measures aimed at reducing the burden of the situation on businesses, groups, and individuals working in these industries.
During this period, consultations will continue to be held to collect opinions from a broad array of arts and cultural groups. The aforementioned measures proposed by the Ministry span four specific approaches…(continue reading)


2. Cabinet approves bill to mitigate coronavirus impact
Date: 2020-02-20 Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan
The Cabinet on Thursday approved a special bill to combat the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and provide economic relief to affected industries. Drafted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the bill will be forwarded to the Legislature for deliberation…(continue reading)

3. Executive Yuan approves special budget to fund COVID-19 response
Date: 2020-02-27 Source: Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan
At its weekly meeting on Thursday, the Cabinet approved a special budget proposal to fund the central government’s fight against the outbreak of COVID-19 together with economic stimulus and relief measures. The proposed budget now goes to the Legislature for review and debate…(continue reading)

4. COVID-19: NT$1.5 billion devoted to relief, revitalization efforts

Date:2020-02-27 Source: Ministry of Culture

NT$1.1 billion invested in relief efforts, NT$400 million in revitalization; a four-pronged effort to assist arts and cultural businesses, groups, and professionals
In response to the projected impact of COVID-19, the Ministry of Culture has developed a package of relief subsidies and loans, administrative and regulative plans, and revitalization measures for the cultural and arts sectors. Expected to total NT$1.5 billion, this package includes NT$1.1 billion in short-term relief funding and NT$400 million for ongoing revitalization efforts in the hope of mitigating the impact of the global epidemic and assisting these industries in their recoveries…(continue reading)

5. COVID-19 prevention guide for performances, exhibitions in Taiwan
Date:2020-03-05  
To reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, all affiliated orchestras and troupes of the Ministry of Culture will postpone their upcoming oversea performances. The Ministry is also urging art event organizers that have planned to invite performance groups from high-risk areas to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine whether the proposed events should proceed…(continue reading)

6. Relief, revitalization measures to mitigate COVID-19 impact
Date:2020-03-12 Source: Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture unveiled the “Relief and Revitalization Measures for the Cultural and Arts Sectors Impacted by COVID-19 (文化部對受嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎影響發生營運困難產業事業紓困振興辦法)” on March 12. These regulations lay out the relief mechanisms, including operating and loan interest subsidies, that are being put in place to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus and measures for revitalizing the industries once the pandemic is contained. All culture-related enterprises or professionals whose operations and livelihoods have been impacted by the virus since Jan. 15 of this year can apply for aid…(continue reading)

7. COVID-19 subsidies to help with operations, boost response
Date:2020-03-17 Source: Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture to accept coronavirus relief applications starting March 18.
The first round of applications for the Ministry of Culture’s coronavirus relief package for the cultural and arts sectors will be accepted between March 18 and April 10, with applications processed in batches to speed up allocations. Review of the first batch is expected to be completed by the end of March, with funds distributed in early April at the soonest. After April, the Ministry will review the pandemic situation and make a follow-up announcement regarding a second round as soon as possible…The Ministry is committed to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on the principle of focusing first on prevention and relief, followed by rapid revitalization efforts. After the March 12 announcement of the Measures, a special relief-and-revitalization budget was passed on March 13 with the support of the Legislative Yuan, which together with the Ministry’s package of relief subsidies, relief loans, administrative preparations, and stimulus measures, accounts for a total investment of NT$1.5 billion in sheltering the arts from the coronavirus. In addition, the Ministry has also published a FAQ relating to these subsidies, along with graphic application primers and other information in Mandarin for those interested in applying for COVID-19 subsidies at the “COVID-19 Relief and Revitalization Measures Platform (文化部協助受疫情影響之文化藝術事業防疫及紓困振興專區).” The Ministry of Economic Affairs has also set up a special coronavirus section on its website, complete with an automated chat bot to assist potential applicants…(continue reading)

8. COVID-19 relief budget for the arts expanded to NT$5.22 billion
Date:2020-04-02 Source: Ministry of Culture

Guided by the philosophy of “supporting businesses, caring for workers, and protecting the self-employed,” the Ministry of Culture’s special coronavirus relief budget for culture and the arts is being expanded in response to the projected impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic…(continue reading)

9. Movie theaters considered ‘closed’ and eligible for COVID-19 relief

Date:2020-04-10 Source: Ministry of Culture

On April 10, the Ministry of Culture reiterated that the movie theater industry will be considered as “closed” for the sake of relief efforts due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that they are not only eligible for already enacted relief subsidies, but also for the upcoming “Arts and Culture Relief 2.0” package. This package includes a new subsidy plan for staff pay and operating costs in the performing arts, cinema, publishing, and performance industries…(continue reading)

10. Virus Outbreak: National Performing Arts Center reveals plans to help artists

Date:2020-04-28 Source: Taipei Times

The National Performing Arts Center (NPAC) yesterday revealed a series of measures it is taking to support artists and keep the performing arts alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, including focusing more on ways to connect with audiences online…(continue reading)

【Commentary】Relief and resources for the arts & cultural sector in Taiwan to address the coronavirus crisis in retrospect.

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