Memo December 2004


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2004


Happy New Year to everyone.

Network culture - privilege or destiny?
The two strong BO delegation to the 2004 Circle round table conference (Whose culture is it? Trans-generational approaches to culture) was not disappointed. Barcelona is the right place in every season.

When the term "youth culture" was invented - together with "generation gap" - about half a century ago, it clearly and rightly expressed opposition. Delegates in Barcelona wondered whether the breathtaking development of e-gadgets and their content has produced similar fission between youth and parents; whether the latter have diminishing hope of keeping pace and understanding what goes on in networks of youth culture.

BO reported on recurrent surveys on Hungarian youth that confirmed the existence of a true generation gap forty years ago, but also that this is much less the case today. In 1973 36,5% of young people claimed that their parents' life was not an acceptable sample, against only 13% in 2000.

Carles Feixa's keynote presentation pointed at the main features of today's youth culture: these were only reinforced during the subsequent sessions. This culture is characterised by adjectives like elastic, versatile, horizontal, small scale etc. And, above all, is ageless, cannot be confined to a period in life. What is labeled as youth culture, is not the destiny or privilege of youth: it is our brave new world that the youth consume (or produce) in greater concentration than the elderly do.

It is a tough task for Circle to set up policy recommendations now, on the basis of the interesting yet little convergent discussion in Barcelona, as required by the main sponsors, the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

Copy... - right or left?
he preceding round table meeting in Zagreb in 2003 was about e-culture. Somehow that discussion returned again and again to issues of copyright. (Let us hope Biserka and team manage to collect the funds missing for the volume on the meeting.) It was suggested that one of future Circle round tables should be dedicated to this sizzling theme: phenomena like Creative Commons, copyleft and Joost on the one side, and increasing protectionism in favour of creation on the other - one's head gets giddy.

In December BO did a short excursion into the collective administration of authors' rights, and was amazed to see that the register of royalty rates on public performance just approved by one country's (Hungary) culture minister for 2005 contains over 400 cells. Illustrative examples of daily fees (translated into euro) after the music that entertains customers:

€ 7,5 must be paid by night clubs at tourist resorts with seasons shorter than three months; at the other end € 0,7 is due from confectionaries and ice-cream shops in settlements with less than 1000 inhabitants. These amounts are 20% higher if jukebox is in operation; 60% higher in case of live music (30% only if at least two musicians are lawfully employed). Which makes it a grid of well over 1000 options. For some of you it is as familiar as your own mobile phone directory; BO felt like Dorothy in the world of OZ.

It is even more opaque what happens to the collected revenue. The latest report on the web site of the leading collective society of that country covers 2000. BO is burning with curiosity to learn the follow-up to sentences like these: "49% of all royalty payments was accounted for by the five large major phonogram publishers (BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal, Warner) and 51% by the independent ones. On the western European and American markets the majors account for over 80%. The majors' weight is increasing in Hungary, too, as in 1999 their share in payments amounted to only 37%."

Six cities
As usual, the round table conference was followed by the annual assembly of Circle, where re-elected president Dorota informed members about the good news of winning EU grant for studying urban cultural life and inter-city interactions for ‘cultural diversity' in Europe. The core of the task is a comparative survey in six cities: Barcelona, Budapest, Paris, Rome, Tallinn and Warsaw, BO taking part. 

This project conveniently lends the theme and framework for the 2005 round table meeting of Circle, to be held in Warsaw, probably in September.

Lab on the rise
The Commission decided on grants for another project: to the Laboratory of European Cultural Cooperation (LAB). However, further funds are needed to meet expectations, like those that representatives of the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and EFAH could feel towards this initiative during their hearing at the culture committee of the European Parliament in November. Private foundations have made pledges, as well as a few governments. The first from a new member state to offer financial support was Poland.

To learn more about the Lab, go to the ECF site. Do not hope for quick success, no matter how broad your brand is. Nevertheless, at a meeting in Amsterdam, BO could sense determination to run this project in an open, flexible and transparent fashion.

Inclusive Europe
In the latest memo careful reference was made about the involvement of the European Forum for the Arts and Heritage (EFAH) into running the conference initiated by the Hungarian culture minister. Preparations are now definitely made jointly. 

Latvians - the British in the east?
More people (56%) consider today that European Union membership is a good thing for their country, according to the latest standard Eurobarometer poll, covering now 25 countries. One would attribute the improvement to the new members, but it is in fact the other way round: only Lithuania and Slovakia are above the average; Latvia with 40% came close to the champion of euroskepticism - the UK (38%).

The word culture does not occur in the survey.