Fears over McDonald's school sponsorship deal

By Leonie Lamont

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia); 13th Dec 1996

The controversy over corporate sponsorship in schools has been reignited with Musica Viva's schools program entering into a national sponsorship agreement with McDonald's.

Yesterday, the Federation of Parents and Citizens' Associations voiced its concern over McDonald's entry into schools in a deal understood to be a one-year renewable contract worth between $100,000 and $150,000.

"(There are businesses) that we would not necessarily think of as desirable to have a presence in our government school system," the federation's executive officer, Mr Warren Johnson, said. "While we are delighted Musica Viva have a program, we think it shows something about the poverty of our priorities that they have to seek sponsorship from McDonald's."

The federation will ask the Department of Education to examine setting up a foundation for sponsorship in the performing arts, similar to the one for sport.

However, the manager of Musica Viva in Schools, Mrs Bernadette McNamara, said it was delighted with the sponsorship. She said McDonald's was the only company among the many they approached prepared to put up the money after the withdrawal of the previous major sponsor, the Commonwealth Bank.

But news that Musica Viva's golden tunes would be sponsored by the golden arches so incensed one musician in the program, Mr Andy Busuttil, that he has just tendered his resignation. Mr Busuttil, who has been involved in the fight to keep McDonald's out of Katoomba, said the sponsorship was a "bizarre bedfellow".

"The corporate sponsorship of our cultural base through a hamburger outlet of the reputation and origin of McDonald's is something that I find totally unacceptable and incongruent with my sense of aesthetics and ethical values," he said in this resignation letter.

"The thought of performing in front of the McDonald's logo and, in so doing, playing on the trust of children in our audience and influencing them to buy the product bound within such a questionable corporate context is not one I could entertain."

In a statement, McDonald's vice-president, Mr John Blyth, said the company was a longstanding supporter of arts and schools and the Musica Viva sponsorship was "an important community service which will assist schools and children across the country in a time when funding for arts programs is not always easy to find".

Mrs McNamara said there was no proposal for musicians to wear the McDonald's logo.

"It is one of the challenges for us to make sure all the musicians are on board," she said.

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