Memo October 2010


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

Hard times are coming, it seems.

What are we talking about?

Culture ministers of the EU met informally in October and saw to it that cultural and creative industries shall remain on the agenda. The exact relationship of the two sets (cultural and the rest), or put it differently, the direct competence of cultural politicians in the issue was not specified – keeping this habit from earlier papers and events.

BO received, however, certain clues from a different corner. Michael Söndermann has been assiduously monitoring the German creative sector for a while, and here is his latest report. Data from the largest economy in Europe are appropriate for defining the relative weight of culture proper within the creative sector. (The study applies the most common definition for these industries.) 

As usual, the German book market had a robust turnover also in 2009, twice as much as the second largest cultural domain, the film industry. The eleven creative branches represented 2.7% of the economic value added in Germany – roughly the same share since 2003.

BO would warn against the division between the “subsidised sector” and these culture industries. In fact a lot of public support arrives to them, rightly, and in conformity with Article 107(3)(d) (formerly 87) of the EU Treaty.

 Who are we talking about?

The comparison of the two graphs shows that the cultural branches produce more than their share in the workforce. Which is mostly due to the opposite performance of the book and the software market: 6% of people create 10% of revenue in the first case, while the software sector employs a third of the creative workforce and produces a fifth of the turnover only. Would you have thought so without Michael’s statistics?

The miraculous book sector is comprised of nearly 75 thousand people: 38 thousand publishers, 30 thousand booksellers and – believe or not – 6903 ‘own account writers’ (31% more than in 2003).

The circle with eleven slices represents a little more than one million jobs, including the self-employed. They are 3.35% of the German labour force. This number has grown bit by bit from 3.12% in 2003. On the other hand, although the absolute number of jobs in the five culture branches has also grown by tiny bits, their relative share fell below 20% within the eleven industries, from above 21% before 2006. 

Nec mergitur (hopefully)

An important finding of the statistical research is that the creative sector in Germany has resisted the crisis relatively well. The fallback of the turnover between 2008-2009 was only 3.5%, while the entire German economy shrunk with over 8%. Also, opposed to the stagnating overall labour force, this sector had 1.8% more employees in 2009!

This is about the only good news in this context. Otherwise cultural subsidies are under threat across Europe. For a number of reasons the worst effects of the crisis have been deferred until recently. Yvette at SICA started to collect evidence earlier this year and here is the latest update about cuts upon cuts.

Value of mobility

Combined with the annual conference of the European network of cultural administration training centres – ENCATC, the project on artists moving & learning held its final conference in Brussels. BO took part, among others by preparing two national reports, based upon interviewing artists in Hungary and Slovenia. Click here for other countries covered and for the comparative study which seeks answers to how artists’ professional trips fit into their life long learning.

Reward for excellence

By the seventh edition the cultural policy research award has indeed come to age. After a boy again a girl is the winner.

Funds for development

BO jubilated about the financial transparency system on the spending of EU funds. The information on cultural grants is impressive indeed. However, if you set the system on cohesion funds or structural funds the result is zero, although one official guess has put the amount spent on culture from the structural funds fifteen times higher than from the culture programmes.

This lack of transparency lends special worth to the study on how cultural projects financed from the Structural Funds of the European Union have contributed to local development. Here is the background. BO is proud to have been involved from an early stage

Poverty and culture

Poverty is a word that the long term EU strategy 2020 uses 25 times. Culture – never, not even in the context of poverty. The relevant thoughtful paper prepared by Culture Action Europe found only two countries, Austria and Belgium, seriously addressing the role of culture in social inclusion, in their national programmes drawn up for the year for combating poverty and social exclusion. The Belgian presidency nevertheless did its best and organised a conference to the issue (attended by BO).

Closely related to the theme is the jubilee meeting of Banlieus d’Europe, an organisation with a decent record of participatory cultural projects in working class neighbourhoods: 25-27 November, Lyon.

Goran and Franz

The newsletter of a cultural observatory is a truly appropriate setting for the account about Kafka being piloted into our brave new environment.