Renting out The Rooms

Pam
Pam Frampton
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“Immerse yourself in our culture at Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public cultural space.”

— From The Rooms website

 

There’s an intriguing art exhibition on at The Rooms right now — “Earth Skins: Three Decades of Drawing by Susan Wood.” Think I’ll pop down on Sunday to see it.

Oh wait. I can’t. It’s closed.

Monday? Nope, still closed.

Tuesday? Closed.

The Rooms alerted the media it would be closed for three days in a succinctly worded news release issued Sept. 5:

“The Rooms wishes to advise that the facility will be closed to the public from Sunday, Sept. 16, up to and including, Tuesday, Sept. 18, to accommodate use by an external organization. The Rooms apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.”

It was only after The Telegram asked questions that the reason why was revealed.

The “external organization” is “Republic of Doyle” — the popular local TV show is using the provincial archives, museum and art gallery as a set for three days, shooting footage for next season.

When asked about the financial aspects of this arrangement, The Rooms said in an emailed statement delivered via the Department of Tourism that since this provides The Rooms with “an exceptional promotional opportunity,” rental fees have been waived.

But there doesn’t seem to be an actual rental fee for having The Rooms at your disposal for one whole day, let alone three.

Check the “rental rates” section of The Rooms’ website, and you will see that while you can rent out certain sections — the café, for example, evenings only — there is no option listed for renting the whole building.

The Rooms says that linking up with “Republic of Doyle” has provided “a unique opportunity for The Rooms and cultural heritage in Newfoundland and Labrador to be featured to a national audience.”

Agreed. “Republic of Doyle” will bring The Rooms to much of the world, and bravo for that. The Rooms is an impressive facility that boasts one of the best views in the city, and “Republic of Doyle” excels at making this city shine its brightest.

But this is not about “Republic of Doyle,” it’s about government transparency.

In principle, I don’t agree with barring the public from public buildings, but if it’s a one-time deal that affects three days out of the year, perhaps that’s not a big deal.

As The Rooms notes in its emailed statement: “It is our understanding that the practice of temporarily closing public buildings for filming such as this is not unusual for other cities with an established film industry.”

That’s true.

Nova Scotia, for example, has a clearly defined Nova Scotia Museum’s Film/Video Production Policy, which states:

“A daily location fee is charged for all film work at the museum, based on an eight-hour day. An hourly overtime rate will be charged for filming beyond the eight hours or for extraordinary hours. For major projects, a flat fee may be negotiated.

“All film productions are subject to the Nova Scotia Museum’s Film/Video Production Policy and producers must sign a Letter of Agreement.”

I could find no such policy on our government’s website.

And that’s the problem here — there doesn’t seem to be a policy.

It could well be worth it for the provincial government to close a public facility temporarily to get a raft of free publicity, but it should outline the conditions of that arrangement so that there’s a level playing field as well as transparency.

Can anyone commandeer The Rooms for three days? How about a week? Is it a public space or a public/private hybrid?

Are other public buildings available in their entirety to the right “external organization”? And if so, is there a fee or are they free as well?

We’re talking about public facilities here.

If the province has decided to lend out The Rooms in a one-off deal, it should say so.

By issuing a news release that didn’t say who was going to be using the facility or why, or how much — if any — financial or promotional benefit was involved in closing its doors for three days, The Rooms did the public a disservice.

And as the landlords of that publicly funded facility, we deserve to have that information without having to go asking for it.

The Rooms’ website describes it as “a truly public space.”

Perhaps it’s time to update that to something a tad more accurate.

 

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at

pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: The Rooms, Department of Tourism, Nova Scotia Museum

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Teresa
    September 17, 2012 - 15:19

    sheesh, pam. all this grumbling about nothing. give us a story with some meat, will ya?

    • Bob K.
      September 17, 2012 - 18:44

      You really frightened the horses with this column Pam. Keep their feet to the fire.

  • Mary
    September 17, 2012 - 15:08

    Seems the author of this article has bees buzzing in her bonnet. Or angry St. John's wasps. Republic of Doyle is good for our economy - whether you like the show or not. It employs local actors, artists and technicians, who then spend their salary in the city. The Rooms did the right thing by not saying who was going to be in the building and why. Maybe they didn't want to give away a story line before the upcoming season airs. Maybe they didn't want all the teenagers at the local schools camping out, trying to get a glimpse of Jake or other special guest stars. Maybe it was Republic of Doyle's request, not The Rooms. Regardless of the reason, if The Rooms is installing exhibits right now, then I agree with JR Smallwood, that this is the best time to close for a few days. Making this about government/politics is far out in right field. Don' t think the writer likes The Rooms much. She has editorialized, not reported the story in a balanced way. BOO!

    • Pam Frampton
      September 17, 2012 - 15:33

      Mary, I haven't worn a bonnet in years. And for the record, I am a columnist, not a reporter, and columns are supposed to reflect personal opinion, just as your comment does. I am a big fan of The Rooms and have never missed an episode of Republic of Doyle, but that's not the point. The column is about the private use of public space.

    • Party Animal
      September 17, 2012 - 17:37

      Me 'n da bys from Da Pearl would like to book Da Rooms out fer a few days over the festive season; we'll invite a few o' da skeets from Da Heights, the crowd from Da Battry and' a dozen or so baymen too; kinda like a mutlicultural event or sum'en; how 'bout it ? or have ya got ta be an Artsie Fartsie on the dole and surviving on gov'ment handouts to get yer private booking? if so, we can make a video and post it to U- toobs. Now where's dem keys at? and, yes, some grant money too...and beer...and cigs....

  • David
    September 17, 2012 - 12:14

    Republic of Doyle is an absolute boondoggle that costs Newfoundlland taxpayers a fortune. THe Rooms is a similar waste of money, which we do a "world-class" job of here. And like everything around here, no one wants to think about the immense cost, just the illusory and dubious benefits, until it's far too late and the money's spent. Let them rent the stupid Rooms at market rates if they want a snazzy set for their precious show...and stop treating this idiotic, expensive TV show like much more than the hugely....provincially subsidized, low-quality entertainment parasite that it truly is.

  • J. R. Smallwood
    September 17, 2012 - 08:51

    The Susan Wood show is open for 82 other days - hope you can make it when your not too busy causing a fuss.The rest of the galleries are closed this week i coinciding with the Doyle shoot, but there will be a slew of new exhibits opening on Friday. Seems like perfect timing for this temporary closure, while being supportive to the Smallywood television and film industry.

  • W. Bagg
    September 16, 2012 - 15:12

    Republic of Doyle equals east coast Beachcombers.

  • saelcove
    September 16, 2012 - 10:30

    When ever i need a good laugh i watch the republic of doyle

  • William Power
    September 16, 2012 - 10:06

    While he's there, maybe Doyle can solve the "Case of the Missing Fort".

  • Richard
    September 15, 2012 - 19:08

    You're an anti-Newfoundlander if you have a problem with Republic of Doyle. Next thing you'll be complaining about the lack of transparency in handing them over $3 million in taxpayer cash, as well.