Saturday, October 13, 2007

Unfair competition is nothing new

Michael Arafeh, owner of Coffeehouse Recording studios in Middletown has had his share of hardships thanks to Middletown public policy. The building of new condominiums on Ferry Street, with use of heavy equipment, meant that many of Arafeh's sessions were interrupted. I was at a meeting of the Common Council when Arafeh plead for some help, and left with little to show.

Now the city is behind Arafeh as he complains that the Green Street Arts Center is unfairly competing with him.

I sympathize with him, but offer the unsettling news that the State of Connecticut has been in the same "unfair competition" business for years. At public universities like Central Connecticut, Southern Connecticut, and Middlesex Community College, instructors are "selling" their audio and video production services to the general public. These universities, which are funded by tax dollars, have none of the overhead costs of a audio of video production company (rent, salary, equipment), and are able to bid for work at a much lower cost. I own a film production company and have complained for years about the situation, and have always heard the excuse that the commercial work helps students experience real production situations. Such production also takes place at private universities like Quinnipiac, but since they are not supported by tax dollars, there is less of a reason for complaint.

To me, this situation says a few things. Students are being used as free (slave) labor on productions for which someone is charging and making a profit. Also, if instructors have the time to complete commercial projects, they are either using state time, or state equipment which should be used for instruction. Finally, it raises the question that state employees may be double-dipping, that is, collecting personal fees for production while they are collecting a university salary.

It seems to me that any entity which receives public subsidy should not be able to bid against a private concern.


Anonymous said...

You have to feel bad for a local business person working hard to be very good at what he/she does only to run into the Wesleyan attitude. I moved to Middletown 19 years ago and was amazed to find that Wesleyan only cares about Wesleyan and Middletown be damned. I hope the mayor does what is right and protects a downtown business.


Anonymous said...

Like most independent production professionals, I've certainly been aware of these unfair 'work as you learn' institutional practices over the years.

One thing that makes this GSAC situation somewhat different, and even more disturbing, is that they are advertising their studio and instructor here as an out and out recording service, printed boldly in their glossy brocure that gets mailed out to hundreds, with no educational component or student involvement attached.

The final line of your commentary says it all.

Mike from The Coffeehouse

Ed McKeon said...

I really can sympathize and empathize with you. I wish the Green Street Arts Center the best, except when it comes to competing unfairly against studios like yours.

Education should remain education, and not attempt to become commerce, because the idea of a level playing field disappears.