Memo April 2015

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2015

Information conveyed through three graphs.

EU subsidy per country

With the selection results of the latest round of the classic cooperation projects the first two years of the culture calls of the Creative Europe programme are complete. BO has set to re-commence the work that gained acknowledgement a few years back. The first thing the Commission (i.e. its Executive Agency) itself also watches is the composition by country. We did so by combining the cooperation projects in 2014 and 2015, to which we added the platform projects the selection of which was done a year ago. (The network programme is too different by nature and we have dealt with the translation subsidies.)

Observers must address particular difficulties at calculating the size of financial support in the frame of the programme. Winning consortia are not required to publish the division of the amount of granted money. Furthermore, actual numbers become final only years later, after the Commission has approved the spending. Nevertheless BO applies a rule of thumb at estimating the amounts that the individual organisations receive: an equal share is counted for each participating partner and a double share for the applying main organiser. (On the example of the first item in the latest round: of the €200,000 Cité de la musique receives 100, the Spanish and Danish partners get 50-50 thousand each.)

With the new instrument of the platform projects we had to invent a different rule. Upon certain orientation we concluded that here the main organisers carry a much greater weight and we calculate five shares for them. (Example: Ancienne Belgique gets five times what each of the remaining twelve members receive. For this the €500,000 was divided by 17.)

And here is the result:

Euclid jubilates about UK successes in the second year. They are right about both years. Even having in mind the rudeness of the calculation, British and French organisations seem to collect the biggest amount of direct cultural subsidies in the first two years of the programme. Two more large countries follow them: Italy and Germany.

The tall Belgian column is misleading as it contains money going to a number of international organisations registered in Brussels. The eighth position of tiny Slovenia is however a truly great achievement.  

EU subsidy per capita

The Slovenian success is even more apparent if we divide the amount with the size of population. If the cash that cultural organisation won in the course of the two years was distributed among the inhabitants, every individual in the country would receive nearly ten cents. Iceland is even better but we are accustomed to it. 

The graph confirms the advantages of cultural operations in small countries. Apart from Belgium, the first country with more than ten million inhabitants is at the 16th position: Netherlands with 1.5 cents per capita. The main BO clientele, the post-communist countries cannot complain in this perspective.

BO welcomes partners from Georgia (at the far end in both graphs) and is looking forward to involvement from Moldova.

A really complex diagram

BO had the privilege of being involved in both EU neighbourhood programme areas in April. In Yerevan at the Festival Reading of EFA, and in Casablanca at a conference of the Med Culture programme.

It was at the latter event that BO learned about the eastern and southern extensions of Eurobarometer. They have been conducted since 2012 and earlier this year the results of the sixth “wave” were announced. The questions put to representative samples of citizens in the east and the south were identical, picked from the Eurobarometer questionnaires. Culture is well represented in this selection.

BO chose two of the items which could be matched to the same in the 2013 EU poll on cultural participation and put them into one combined diagram. The explanation of the two columns:

  • One of the questions sounded as follows: How many times in the last twelve months have you seen a play in a theatre? Columns on the left mark the percentage of people who claimed to have attended a theatre play at least once.
  • The other question inquired about barriers: Why haven’t you been to a theatre at all or more often? One of the choices was “lack of interest”. The column on the right shows the inverse of the answers.

An example from the middle: 30% of interviewed Slovaks said they had been to a theatre at least once in the preceding year. And 33% referred to the lack of interest in the first place as the reason why not more often or not at all. It fits more to the diagram to display the other 67% of the population who are supposed to have certain interest in theatre (they are not indifferent).

The diagram prompts a multitude of comments and questions.

One would expect greater difference between European and, say, north-African countries. And yet, more Algerians (31%) claim to go to theatre than the French (21%). Slightly more Egyptians (17%) than Poles (16%).

What is behind such perplexities? The fallacies of opinion polls? Experts swear about the reliability of the methods. Variations in the meaning of words? (Like theatre play, at least once etc.) Differences in behaviour at polling? Or just lack of our information? 

People in post-communist countries manifest interest in theatre in much higher proportions than in most other places. Less than 20% dare admit lack of interest in four countries (EE, LV, AM, RO). Is it a legacy of the democratisation efforts of the communist era? Or is it a measure of compensation for poorer economic gratification?

One finds by far the greatest dissonance between attitudes and actual behaviour in case of Romania. What is the nature of the reasons behind low attendance figures: economic, social, or deficits of the sector? Jordanians on the other hand demonstrate the greatest concordance: almost all who are at least a little interested (39%) go to theatre at least once a year (34%).

BO is nevertheless looking forward to more opportunities to test our knowledge and prejudices about cultural phenomena in Europe and its neighbourhood.