Memo December 2007


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in December 2007

BO staff spent December at our comfortable Budapest base without field expeditions. This memo reflects desktop observation.

Parliamentary focus
(Although we keenly follow the eventful handling of the cultural industries at the European Parliament, we also acknowledge and love culture's intrinsic values. Vive l'art pour l'art!)

The homepage of the culture committee of the European Parliament reports about a public hearing on cultural industries, held in November. For the occasion a carefully selected rich bibliography was offered on the subject.

From the event BO has picked how the editor of the fundamental European study on cultural industries highlighted three out of the seven recommendations of that study. In BO interpretation KEA suggests that the European Commission should:

(1)     re-allocate some of the huge community funding of R&D and innovation to subsidising the creative content,

(2)     support the digital shift (and digitise intensively),

(3)     as well as inject more culture into the Union's interactions with the rest of the world. 

Parliamentary efforts
This public hearing was a station on the road map of the culture committee towards producing a parliamentary resolution on cultural industries. Soon the 785 members (MEPs) of the plenum will discuss the text and vote on it. The
draft resolution contained recommendations in 16 paragraphs (610 words, without the introductory and closing machinery). The MEPs in the committee came up with 124 changes to make, which they discussed at their December session

Probably the most important message of the resolution will be the call to "elaborate a structured policy for developing European creative industries, incorporating it in a proper European strategy for culture". Let it be.

Also stimulating is the wish to "look into the possibility of setting up a programme similar to the MEDIA Programme tailored for the music and publishing industries". Such a programme will have to tackle the dilemma between funding arts and boosting business, a dichotomy interestingly discussed in this British paper. This dilemma has also to do with what BO identified as the third, "doublespeak" strategy applied vis-à-vis the cultural industries: underpinning claims for increased arts subsidy (also for old structures) by citing creative sector statistics.

Before we associate cultural industries solely with music and publishing, let us concede that the TIMES sector (telecommunications, Internet, media, e-commerce and software) is the basic plank of the cultural industry. Who says so? Another committee of the European Parliament says so, the one on gender equality, who in their comments to the draft proposal warn that participation of women in said TIMES sector is extremely low. 

Parliamentary optimism
What makes MEPs so painstaking? How come they do not despair when they read the
previous such resolution that the European Parliament passed in September 2003? So little seems to have been achieved of that document!

The old resolution asked the Commission for information on the cultural dimension of the EU Structural Funds by the end of 2003; the same query is humbly repeated now - without a deadline. 

The old resolution urged the Commission to bring Eurostat cultural industries statistics in line with international standards; now we find a polite request to arrange for the collection of systematic statistics in this area.

More meetings, more dilemmas
December saw
another meeting where European and national parliamentarians discussed culture's contribution to jobs and growth. In all these events few eastern voices were heard, therefore BO got attentive reading about a Lithuanian MP quoted saying "we should not allow European institutions to co-ordinate national culture". What might those words mean - wonders BO, especially because a few Google-checks proved that this sentence is attributed to an apparently open-minded person?

Mainstreaming the elderly
BO likes when Ifacca, the world federation of arts councils, acts as a worldwide cultural observatory and browses the globe for information on specific issues. This time on
support for senior artists, which is a particularly difficult matter in our part of Europe, too. 

BO usually disapproves of the purely social treatment of the issue. The best support to senior artists is to keep them active. Those geniuses in the history of arts who found their real selves in their senior years challenge the clichés that identify creativity solely with tender age.

Hoping for a public call for innovative, original, spicy concepts with a (lower) age limit of 66.

Deadline for applications 21st January
We tend to concentrate too much on the EU. For a change, the next opportunity is
available only for colleagues outside the Union. At arm's length from BO base a workshop will be held between 3-8 March on how to teach cultural policy. If you qualify, your costs will be covered by the organisers.

Happy 2008!
Those who stay with us, will be exposed to numerous entries on intercultural dialogue, I bet you will.