Memo May 2003


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in May 2003

May was an offline month. BO staff was immersed in various jobs whose outcome did not make its way to our site. June will turn online. (Web editor Csaba promised.)

Copernicus needed
Someone to re-establish the right order of the factors affecting cultural sponsorship and donations.

BO research, done with Council of Europe backing in 2000, updated with KulturKontakt support in 2002, found no significant causal relationship between tax incentives and corporate support to culture. Not even, when the inquiry was extended to America. We established that other kinds of motivation: sociological, historical, economical, political or cultural are at least as important as the legal or fiscal. Where there is a favourable ethos for private financial involvement in culture, this usually gets reflected in legislation - and rarely 5the other way round.

So what? Forget the refrain "no sponsorship because our laws are not good enough". Tax incentives are only one among the instruments to boost corporate responsibility. BO is too slow in fully exploiting related findings. We lack the talent of Copernicus although we are from east-central Europe, too.

Occasionally people are still astonished at the astronomical sounding of our name. Yet BO feels less weird month by month, as cultural observatories are being created all over the world. 

The EU is considering setting up one of its own (see March memo). The European Cultural Foundation volunteered to contribute to the conception. Having been consulted, BO just received one related ECF paper. We are very pleased at the circumspection with which the piece suggests to avoid pitfalls, and handles exaggerated expectations. Shall we see then the birth of a European cultural observatory that is "a generator of new knowledge, interpretative analysis, connectivity and synergies for the European cultural sector"? Raj, you have done your job.

EU cultural policy
Is there such a thing or not? If not, should or will there be one? The orthodox stance is that the EU has no mandate over cultural policies of members, consequently over cultural policy as such; its sole remit is cultural co-operation. Which creates difficulties. What takes place inside countries is not community cup of tea, only what takes place between them.

The schizophrenia of this doctrine is visible at a glance at the famous Ruffolo Report. The sentence that led to the hustle about an EU Observatory says that it would "monitor cultural co-operation, with the aim of promoting the exchange of information and co-ordination between the cultural policies of the Member States and Community cultural policy."

So what they are like needs no monitoring except what they do with one another. Some more sophism will be needed before the Observatory is set up.

Peeping over the fence
In the cinema field the EU has developed and run mechanisms of monitoring, protecting and supporting not just co-operation but creation and distribution, too. Raj was right to survey them in his paper.

The vulnerability of the cultural sectors in the accession countries calls for the examination of chances and justification for analogous mechanisms in other areas of culture. This is what an east-central European voice proposed with regard to publishing, at a conference held in Athens in April (

Euro-subsidy to publishing
As part of a more complex project, BO has analysed the book-related support from Culture 2000 in the period 2000-2002, mainly translation grants. Applicants from Norway and Greece took around one third of the total of 3 million euros; Italy and Sweden were still over 10% each - an unusual coupling.

Among the 19 nations there were publishers from 6 accession countries, collecting altogether 8.3% of the grants (Lithuania on top with 2.8%).

Per capita calculation shows a wide range with Germany and Iceland at the two ends, the latter getting 3000 times more funds per inhabitant.

Event missed
BO was sorry to miss the interesting workshop held in Bucharest in May on local cultural strategies in South East Europe. Ecumest web site contains the agenda and background papers. What makes one really excited is samples of municipal strategies in the region - BO computer was able to download one, the Serbian city of Šabac.

The fate of 'cultural centres', multifunctional venues for cultural activities of citizens, is one of BO's research subjects. Eagerly read what the Šabac strategy tells about them: close, open, demolish, refurbish or what. Not surprisingly, the thing (formerly the bastion of socialist culture) is mentioned in an indirect pejorative way only: „The gallery of the cultural centre is inadequate for any bigger and more serious project."

Memo readers, non-readers
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