Memo July 2010


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in July 2010

As promised, this memo is even shorter than the previous was.

Creative sector in hiding

Observatories are there to watch and tell what they see. Also what they don’t. BO does not see where the European Commission keeps its documents on the creative industries (or sector). There is no such title, chapter, box or folder. No matter whether you start from the directorate for enterprise, try competitiveness or innovation and go deeper and deeper, no way. The same with the culture site that contains highly relevant and important documents but no such chapter. Those papers are stored by type (study, final report, consultation etc.) and not under the title of creative industries. On the whole, there is a chronic contrast between the prominence of the creative sector in rhetorics and its elusiveness in policies and administration.

The consultation on the relevant Green Paper prompted BO to warn against simplifying the impact of culture on the economic success of a society down to the “industries”.

Third countries involved

The list of winning projects involving selected third countries into cultural cooperation has been made public. BO has visualised the dynamics of collaboration. The lines represent the number of organisations that participate as leaders or partners of a winning project. Interest about outsiders has spread fairly evenly at the receiving end, between the nine eligible targets (click to enlarge).

The left side, however, the list of Culture Programme insiders shows greater variety. The dominant position of Germany and France is no surprise. It is, however, the absence of Polish operations, in the year when their important Slavic neighbours are the designated beneficiaries. On the other hand, cultural organisations from Belgium, Slovakia and Bulgaria were more active than usual.

Next year’s map will be much more monotonous, because Mexico only has been selected for eligibility.

Easier life

At last, a handy Financial Transparency System makes life easier for those who inquire about funding received from the European Commission. The device provides the amounts – this time from the last three years – at amazing speed and in various groupings.

For a test, BO downloaded cultural grants for the first and last new member state in the alphabet. Bulgaria collected money for 33 grants between 2007-2009, ranging from €200 000 on a dance project down to €2268 on the translation of a book. The Slovenian list of 38 grants ends the same, €2160 on the translation of a book; the pole position, however, is held by an impressive €900 000 programme of Kibla in Maribor. 

Culture is more than what is named culture. Out of the 58 items downloaded as “e-content plus” the majority are sheer culture. Most of them relate to the European Digital Library, bringing millions of euros also to eastern member states, or to the European Film Gateway.

Old films

The latter (the film gateway) is, among others, involved in the quest for protecting the European film heritage in the digital era. A lengthy report (161 pages with annexes) has taken stock of the issue. The essence of the brief (105 words) conclusion is that before massive action further examination is needed.

Three new ministers

Lately there were parliamentary elections in three Visegrad countries, resulting change of government in all three. All three are politically centre right and appear to be compelled to implement financial restrictions – which the sector expects them to withstand as much as they can.

From the three, the worldwide web offers – both in Slovak and English – the most articulate information about the Slovak minister, a former media worker. Digitisation as well as protection of cultural heritage, financing of public media and increased transparency in the distribution of grants are most often mentioned in his communication. The Czech minister is a former city mayor whose priorities are legislation for heritage protection, the finalisation of the agreement with the major churches, as well as improving managerial skills in culture. In Hungary, culture became part of a complex ministry named National Resources, whose minister has entirely left communication about culture to his state secretary, a literary gentleman originating from Transylvania, Romania. Moral regeneration in cultural life, and reinforcement of cultural bonds with Asia have been recurrent elements in his interviews.