Memo September 2011

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in September 2011

There is more to tell than this limited space. Shall continue in a month’s time.

Thousands in Wroclaw

The most impressive aspect of the European Culture Congress was the sophisticated use of information technology. The bar-coded intelligent delegate badges allowed for smooth movement of the many thousands of participants among the many dozens of programmes.

The congress site lives on: by clicking on more, you can wander through the maze of programmes and features of this mega-event.

The future of Media and Culture programmes was discussed involving competent persons – complete with the interlude of the idea generator presentation and voting.

As an integral part of the programme of the congress, the late Dragan Klaic talks to us from a 2010 December video.

Wrocław will be capital of culture in 2016, and promises to build on its multicultural heritage. Some go even further in this regard. And yet the city offers precious little of what one would call respect for past diversity – hardly a writing in German.

Well-being and culture

The Paris based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented in spring its Better Life Index, consisting of eleven dimensions of human life, from housing through health to safety. The fantastic user-friendly display cannot compensate for the frustration that the authors of the device did not find culture a condition of better life… Not even a tiny bit, the word culture is absent from the background material on the quality of life. 

Culture is one degree closer to the heart of Eurobarometer researchers. Here, too, one has to go through twenty-eight other facets of life, from job satisfaction to religion, before arriving at culture – with only the weather and natural disasters left behind in the list of aspects affecting well-being. At the end of discussions with (focus) groups of selected citizens, eighteen factors were defined and voted on. In the end, cultural life gained the 12th position together with diet: access to delicious and healthy food.

If BO subscribers were to form a focus group, we could convince the researchers about a much stronger position of culture among the conditions of well-being, no doubt.

The 84-page paper – especially the annex – is warmly recommended also as an excellent methodological guide to qualitative research.

Waiting for the eighth

Who will join the seven former winners of the cultural policy research award? Nineteen young researchers responded the call, of whom six have been shortlisted. Final choice in Helsinki.

0.14% - would you have guessed more?

Suppose you want to assess the weight of the Culture Programme of the European Union with regard to the national financing of culture. To get a clear picture is next to impossible. Enough to compare a few tables on public finances of culture on the Compendium website to accept that only the innocent believe in one figure statements about cultural finances in a country (especially journalists and politicians). But the real difficulties lie in determining what goes to the individual states in case of co-operating projects, which constitute the majority of EU’s Culture spending. (Beyond the fact that the executive agency, EACEA discloses amounts won, and not ultimately received; and that the agency flatly refused to dig for the figures of the 2007 translation grants.) 

BO took the courage to guess. With a simple formula we simulated the distribution of EU grants between each leader and co-organiser in projects between 2007-2010, to which money from other “strands” was added. We matched these figures to national budgets contained in the Compendium. Find some appetisers before details are put down at greater length.

We started the presentation of such data with the Czechs. Using the information in Compendium, we had a benchmark of somewhat over € one billion as public cultural expenditure in 2009. In that year we (Marta and Diyana) found twenty Czech cultural organisations connected to winning projects either as beneficiaries or co-organisers. Applying the above mentioned formula we concluded that about €1.4 million is due to them from Brussels: adding around 0.14% to the national sources. Approximately the same figure was produced for 2008, too. How much would you have guessed?

More about Czechs

Sorting grants by sub-domains is, however, an even riskier undertaking than dividing project grants among the leaders and the co-organisers. Out of the 1420 projects that we found over the five years we labelled 18% as “interdisciplinary”, maybe too carefully. A thorough revision would probably increase the number of projects belonging to performing arts, heritage etc..

Still in the Czech case, in 2009 EU grants of over € 700 000 may have gone to six operations in five performing arts projects. Compendium offered a benchmark of about €32 million subsidy going to this domain from public sources in Czechia. The EU grants meant nearly 2% extra money in this segment. In 2008 seven projects may have yielded about €350 000, adding less than 1% more to national performing arts budgets.

Books, literature and translation occupying a tiny part in the state expenditure, the six Czech winners in 2008 could collect over 10% more in this category – to be used indeed in the course of three years.

Testis unus testis nullus

A few more figures based on EACEA data (BO estimates) and Compendium tables, about the surplus that operators are likely to have earned from EU sources on top of national budgets: Austria 0.10% both in 2007 and 2008; Slovenia 0.15% in 2007; Portugal 0.16% in 2009; and Bulgaria 0.51% in 2009.

Here is the context behind the Bulgarian score. Although six winning projects between 2007-2011 is a modest result (involving altogether sixteen partners from twelve countries), but the 45 instances of Bulgarian operations participating in foreign projects (on the right) is impressive. Italians invited Bulgarian partners on nine occasions, followed by France and Germany, with seven and six instances. (Taken from the report for Connexus.)