Memo December 2005


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2005

It has not been our year - many Europeans can say.

Public money spent on culture in the Union
There is an adopted proposal now for the next Financial Perspectives (named nicer than a 7-year Plan), as the legacy of the British presidency. The cultural community is right to feel abandonned with the dire prospect of again something in the neighbourhood of €34 million per year, like in the current septennial.

The total EU sum is 862 thousand million, around 1% of what the 27 members hope to produce between 2007 and 2013. About another 1% in these countries can be estimated to be spent on culture from public coffers. Now why not share our attention more evenly between the 238 million (or so) spent jointly and the 800 000 (or 1 000 000?) million spent separately: nationally, regionally, municipally, and so damned subsidiarily? Why not talk more about the way that money will be used in the 27 countries?

The list of winning projects in 2005 has been put on display.  Food for BO analysis.

Coming back to a string presented in an earlier BO memo: 8 - 16 - 24 - x..., the three figures correspond to the number of Culture 2000 grant-winning projects led by a cultural organisation from east-central Europe in the years 2001 - 2002 - 2003. Well, 2004 did not produce 32. Qabalah stayed with us in a different form: in 2004 once more 24 project leaders came from east-central Europe.

What comes next? Guess for 2005: 8 - 16 - 24 - 24 - x... We have got the data but the last days of the year were not convenient for counting.

We are also intrigued whether Italy remains the absolute champion of winning C2000 grants. And who was the 2005 champion in the east? Did cultural organisations from the Baltic republics do better, after the poor yield in 2004? Could Slovenia repeat its leap forward of the previous year? In which sector were eastern organisations the most successful: in the performing arts, like in 2004? Wait for the next memo.

The Commission tries
In an effort to regulate properly, the European Commission tries to keep pace with the mind-boggling diversification of the audio-visual world. The latest proposal to update the TV without Frontiers directive distinguishes between linear services (e.g. scheduled broadcasting via traditional TV, the internet, or mobile phones, which "pushes" content to viewers), and non-linear services, which the viewer "pulls" from a network "on demand".

The proposal submitted to the Parliament and the Council suggests a substantial deregulation of audio-visual rules. It would, for example, allow for "product placement" (when merchandises act in programmes to please sponsors), provided viewers would be warned at the start of a show. The proposal claims that advertising is the financial basis of a strong and diverse "free to air" audio-visual sector. However, the existing 12 minutes per hour ceiling for advertising is proposed to be maintained.

The Commission is proud of Europe's audio-visual rules, originally from 1989. The famous quotas appear to achieve their cultural aims by contributing to media pluralism. Have you noticed that the content made by independent producers accounts for 33% of transmission time or roughly 50% of all works produced within Europe? Have you appreciated this?

One more successful conference
BO attends conferences, even produces them. Yet rarely feels that meetings really work. Besides the demonstration function (we are here, determined and important), can conferences come forward with points that do change the course of... any course? Can gatherings have an impact on those who do not attend but matter about the issue?

Reports on conferences on the role of culture in the European project often provoke such questions. This time about Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe, held on 7 December in Brussels, organised by Europa Nostra in co-operation with the Economic and Social Committee, a major institution of the Union.

The education and culture committee of the European Parliament held a hearing of two EU orchestras, having been created as symbols of the European idea. Their future financing is jeopardised now, as members of EFAH learn in their briefing about the sessions of that committee.

During these weeks auditions are being held for the youth orchestra. A chance to meet the norm set a few years ago when organisations supported by the Union were assessed: "responding to the challenges of enlargement will be the main difficulties facing the EUYO in the future". Indeed, actually less than 10% of its members are from the east, although "the Patrons of the orchestra are the Prime Ministers of each of the 25 member countries of the EU".

The European Union Baroque Orchestra has tackled the challenge of the enlargement better, judging by the 20% of eastern membership.

The web site of the third orchestra that wears the name of the European Union would not reveal its composition. One wonders what came out of the 2002 verdict: the EU chamber orchestra "does not appear to have any organised plans or strategies for integrating the central and east European countries".