Memo August 2003


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

After this subtropical summer, BO is looking forward to a cool and busy autumn - probably just like you, dear colleagues.

Call for 2004
Yes, the call has been disclosed. The shortest deadline ever. We wonder if anyone has found unexpected elements in the text of the call - if so, let us know.

The future
Those curious about the future of EU cultural support actions, and especially those who nurture dissatisfaction with the existing practice, will read this with gusto. Advisable also for those, who believe that it is through a critical review that one really gets to understand a programme (or a novel, drama or symphony, for that matter).

The authors are from the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies. Wonder where it is? Try The ideas contained in this paper partly coincide with what BO put forward in July.

Understanding TV without frontiers
As part of our observatory function with regard to the EU, BO plunged into the much cited and little understood instruments named "Television Without Frontiers" and made an attempt to present it to the unitiated in an easy-to-absorb way. BO staff tested the effect on ourselves and after reading the text we feel more at ease with this complex subject.

Counting translations
In August, BO went along collecting information for the Mercator Centre project (see previous memos). Among others, we found the following. On European book markets, typically between 10 and 30% of titles are translations from a foreign language. The percentage tends to relate conversely to the population size of a country. Austria is an odd case out: less than 500 titles are reported a year, while Finland has nearly 1500, Hungary between 1500-2000 and the Czech Republic often over 3000 foreign titles each year. (Probably no news, and certainly no bad news for publishers and booksellers in Germany.)

Belated regret
BO was invited but could not make it to the seminar in Bucharest in May on municipal cultural strategies in south-east Europe. We could realise what we missed while reading the summer issue of Policiesforculture Journal. BO found special interest in a writing about cultural centres in Zagreb.

French efforts to attract more private funds for culture
One of the on-going BO affairs is the issues related to private funding of culture: sponsorship, philanthropy and the like. This is why we follow closely the lot of the French draft law on ‘mécénat' and the non-profit organisations. On 21 July it reached the stage of second hearing in the Senate. Once it is over, BO will examine the new law from a comparative point of view.

Creative potentials in Vienna
BO is repeatedly asked to single out the most important recent developments in the field of cultural policies in Europe. What usually has the effect of novelty is the presentation of the UK approach of extending the borders of culture to incorporate creative industries. (On the whole, the pragmatic treatment of culture - or, as they prefer to call it: of the arts - in Britain is still alien to most people in the east, where the pathetic is the prevailing tone.)

Vienna follows suit, and seriously at that. A consortium of three commissioned a consortium of three in order that the economic potential in creative industries in the city could be fully mapped by the end of 2003 (and probably better exploited later on). The first three-some are the City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the Film Fund of the city (how many metropolises have one?) - the latter triade is composed of agencies with familiar faces for BO.

To learn more, you should go to You will find all major documents on exploring creative industries from the arch-source of the British Creative Industries Task Force in 1997 onwards - an exemplary use of synergies.

On cultural diplomacy
Cultural diplomacy occupies no prominent position in BO mission statement. Circumstances, however, made us engage into various projects in this area. Putting together BO contribution to the study on cultural cooperation in Europe took up considerable time this spring. Before it is approved by the Commission, the visitor to BO site must be contented with smaller pieces. One is really short, a mere page, including quotes from Woody Allen and Sir George Solti (read it here). Strangely, it is the fourth item in this memo that is linked to Austria.