Memo November 2014


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in November 2014

There is great interest towards the cultural policy barometer. Some of the curiosity is satisfied below.

Time flies

The Council of the European Union has met for the 3349th time on 25 November. The Council “adopted conclusions establishing” a Work Plan for Culture (2015-2018). Normal ears sense the first word only, which is what happened: the plan was adopted.

But not disclosed, at least not until 2 December. We learn quite a lot about its content on the “culture” page of the Commission, but the link that promises more is false.

Anyhow, the next four-year plan "sets four priority areas: accessible culture, cultural heritage, creative economy and innovation, and cultural diversity. These are complemented by two cross-sector themes: digital shift and statistics”.

(You may want to brush up your familiarity with the actual 2011-2014 work plan for the remaining four weeks.)

The British way

The Council meeting prompts a remark why BO would hate to see the UK leave the EU. Can you tell another country where preparation to the ministers’ consultation is as transparent as in this British example? We learn a bit more about the issues from it than from the official release upon the session.

In the brief you will find one item where Minister Vaizey was prepared to dig his heels in (“I therefore intend to block the conclusions”). It is about VAT on e-books, which is touched upon in the invisible text [1] of the Work Plan. Here is an explanation of the issue, and here is a survey of the case in 51 countries.

Meanwhile the Parliament

Let us take a look at another EU institution, the European Parliament. Its Committee on Culture and Education meets once a month. One can catch a glimpse of the functioning of the committee from the minutes of the November meeting which also discusses house-holding matters.

Later in the month the culture committee held a public hearing on copyright matters. Here is the list of presentations. BO peeped into the first expert’s slides which confirm (among others) that the expansion of the time scale of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years effects in restricting creation more often than boosting it. Heirs who never met the author/artist, and lawyers/managers of estates etc. are collecting increasing amounts and taking artistic decisions.  

This open letter brings you to the very core of the matters involving copyright, cultural diversity and digital market.

One out of three out of ten

The Lux Prize is an inventive action that the Parliament has been running since 2007. (They write it as LUX.) A panel of sixteen selects ten films each year, which in summer is narrowed down to three.


The three films are subtitled in 23 languages and shown across the EU member states. Everyone can vote but the main prize is selected by the MEPs, members of the European Parliament. This process is taking place in these days. It is a question, however, whether the new MEPs grow up to the task and vote in numbers like their predecessors did. The award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg on 17 December.

(One more vote is going on: two weeks have left to demonstrate the engagement of festivals to quality, community and Europe.)

Deliverables of a project

The state of crowdfunding in the four Visegrad countries has been examined in a project co-ordinated from Prague.

Barometer teaser

Concern about the position of culture in the budgets of governments dominates the expert survey BO conducted in two steps in September and October.

While culture ministers rarely have decisive influence on the government budget, the next four “problematic factors” relate to strategic issues in the culture ministers' remit. Not that reform minded ministers can overnight

  • create a balance between financing established institutions and upcoming initiatives
  • relate cultural policy priorities to burning social, political and economic needs
  • announce priorities in clear and accountable terms
  • and push through an overhaul of the structure of institutions

but can (and should) act in a spirit that acknowledges the importance of these matters. Provided that our barometer correctly reflects these to be on top of the urgency list with regard to cultural policies of the day.

The graph reflects the choices of 147 correspondents, the majority from Europe. The list of 28 “problematic factors” has been distilled through three rounds a year ago and this autumn. Seven statements in the actual wording appeared in the latest list only – in fact the top four items belong to them.

How the modified list was consolidated with the answers received on the former edition and other questions of methodology will be presented in the full report that this exercise deserves.

The report will show diversities between regions. Besides highlighting differences in the overall patterns, some items will be singled out. Such as the issue of “Declining private contributions”, which is high among the grievances in the Visegrad four but absent from the list of the Mediterranean countries. Or: experts in former communist countries hardly complain about “Too much emphasis on culture’s impact on the economy”, while their Nordic colleagues find it a nuisance. 

[1] Footnote: Upon my query at the council page I received a correct link to the Work Plan.