Memo February 2008


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 2008

Farewell to Mark Schuster, a kind and helpful colleague, and a genuine authority in cultural policy studies, who passed away in February.

Audio-visual luxury
In the old days going to cinema was a rather plebeian pastime, particularly in our part of Europe. Things have changed, in our time going to the movies correlates with high GDP:

The diagram, showing per capita cinema-going in 2007, has been derived from the latest press release of the European Audiovisual Observatory.

The wall
The graph above is a visual illustration of the very slow vanishing of the Berlin wall (iron curtain, Oder-Neisse line) divide. See one more example, this time selected from the latest European
student barometer, showing how much engineering students from various countries expect to earn during a year at their first job.

Disputed convention
Certain attitudes also reflect the west-east divide. It is, for example, characteristic for easteners not to make themselves heard in the disputes around the Unesco
convention on cultural diversity. Which, in our region, tends to be regarded as a solemn tribute to the many faces of culture, and is rarely associated with the pedestrian world of trade agreements. (A recent survey proves that members of EFAH also link cultural diversity sooner to intercultural dialogue than to market forces.) 

Said dispute is about the effect that the Unesco convention exerts on internal regulations of the European Union. Whether it obliges the Commission, when it works on trade and market rules, to really "take cultural aspects into account", according to the pious wish of Article 151? Members of the culture committee of the European Parliament keep the issue on the agenda. On 27 February a public hearing was held on the subject, about which an energetic parliamentarian gave a first hand account to a group in Krems, including BO. MEPs appear to be more determined than the culture sector in the Commission, who seem to feel more at ease at celebratory actions than to dealing with shrewd lawyers at the trade and competition departments.

Why Krems
Why in Krems? Because of
EU XXL, a film festival combined with meetings and debates. The peculiar performance of EU XXL is that there dry and heavy cultural policy stuff is turned sexy. Top specialists help formulate proposals about subjects like creative content online, rights management and electronic communications framework. This year's EU XXL forum produced a five-page Resolution, presented to and discussed with representatives of the European Parliament and the Commission. No easy reading, a collection of professional standpoints on a number of issues at stake in the process of European legislation in the audio-visual field.

Film music was one of the selected themes for discussion. BO learned from a French participant, en passant, that it was a hundred years ago that Camille Saint-Saens composed the first music specifically for use in a film.

Audio-visual loyalty
Krems is in (Lower) Austria. Another diagram from the
source cited above, tells about the market share of home made films. The leading position of France (in the EU) was predictable. The one but last place of Austria, with 1,8%, is no big surprise, either. This share, however, will surely go up, since the 2008 Oscar for the "Best Foreign Language Picture" went to an Austrian film: Die Fälscher -  The Counterfeiters.



New players in established projects
The calls for two prestigious resources for young people in the cultural sector testify about the expansion of range of activities by three organisations. The Bratislava based Central European Foundation, and KulturKontakt, Vienna have joined the Felix Meritis Foundation in running the Gulliver connect mobility programme (hurry up, short deadline!); while the European network of cultural administration and training centres (ENCATC) has taken over the management of the cultural policy research award for the young, announced in conjunction with the European Cultural Foundation and the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Missed birthday
BO regrets not being able to attend the 10th birthday of a unique organisation, the Truc sphérique, who reside in a railway station in the Slovak city of Žilina, hence their other name of Stanica (station). The building functions as a cultural centre but you can also find the schedule of trains at top left on their web site. As an independent multi-disciplinary cultural centre, Stanica is of course member of TEH Trans Europe Halles, the network of 43 such places, and is also displayed by Artfactories.

Truc sphérique was the main driver behind the cultural strategy document for the Žilina region. It is not easy to identify links between the jolly Stanica group and the 130 page policy opus that creates awe in the reader.

Comparative forum
Truc sphérique was
inspired by the Dutch regime of transparent medium term cultural planning, which has admirers from many corners. Later this week we shall find out whether indeed the cultuurnota system stands before revision? Also: what is common, and what is different between cultural policies in Flanders and the Netherlands - under Hungarian eyes?