Creative Sector and Culture


What have cultural ministers to do with creative industries?

The release of the joint publication of the three Baltic republics on creative industries ignited the hope to find answers to the question: what is the relation of cultural policy to the creative industries? The crux of this question is the fact that a part (probably the greater part) of the creative industries is outside the remit of cultural policy. This fact and its dimensions was earlier illustrated, among others, with data from Culture and Creative Industries in Germany 2009.



70-80% of the creative sector is outside of the jurisdiction of culture ministries and ministers. This state of affairs cries for an answer to the question in the title.

Earlier we identified various kinds of reactions. Reaction to the creative industry challenge begins with broadening the focus of attention from the arts and heritage core to the peripheries, to the culture industries. And it culminates in concentrating on the catalytic effect of culture on creativity, by exploring the ways of its radiation to the economy at large. The beginning is easy, the culmination requires real sophistication.

Between these two poles we have found two typical practices. The most widespread response is lip service. References to the creative sector serve for tactical purpose (sometimes cunning, more often just naive): to justify increased funding for culture. Luckily, the more mature responses, the essence of which is establishing new alliances with the economic sector, are on the increase.

Nevertheless, in either case, our starting point is rarely stated explicitly, namely that in this endeavour cultural policy has to do with areas that are outside of its traditional remit. On the contrary, there are suggestions as if culture ministries had direct influence over the conditions in the software industry, advertising market, architecture etc.

The rich analysis of the evolution of the cultural and creative industries concept also stops at the dilemma of cultural policy vis-à-vis its own sub-sector of cultural industries. (“The means to promote cultural industries are precisely cultural; to tie these to primarily economic outputs is to abuse these cultural means.”)

The question therefore remains open. Which are the best alliances in favour of boosting the creative industries, and what exactly is the role of cultural policy and politicians in these relationships?

A publication Creative Industries in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 2010, released by the culture ministries promises answers. Here is the reader's conclusion. We learn about conscious, persevering efforts to boost the creative sector, illustrated with nine “good practices”. Nevertheless, if we remove the photos of the three culture ministers, and about a minor part of the text with references to cultural policy, the publication could be credited to the ministry of economy or national development. Two of the presented cases are clearly cultural: KIM? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, and the Arts Printing House (Menų spaustuvė) in Vilnius; the rest are difficult to conceive as cultural initiatives. 

Without explicit description of what exactly happened, nevertheless the Latvian contribution came closest to defining the role of the culture ministry and policy in favour of the rise of the creative sector:

„…the main reasons for introducing creative industries policy topics right from the start involved a logical extension of general cultural policy matters:

• creative industries development was also linked to issues of national identity, language, unique export offerings and also the potential for marketing Latvia abroad;

• as the Ministry of Culture is responsible for the cultural and creative industries education sector, creative industries were also linked to the issue of conditions for creative people (artist’s social security, mobility of cultural professionals, strengthening the strategic connection between cultural and education sectors etc.);

• considering creative industries in close relation to establishing markets and the consumption of cultural goods and services;

• understanding the interdependence of creative industries development and further improvements to cultural administration (performance based strategic management, training of administrators, establishing sound and sustainable research systems etc.).”

* * *

„‘Culture’, previously seen as a marginal and mainly decorative or prestige expenditure, began to move much closer to the centre of policy-making as a potential economic resource.” (O’Connor)

This is indeed a fundamental issue, which has important effects on the traditional fields of cultural policies: both adverse, and impacting positively – that shall not be discussed here. Where the task has been incorporated into the system – and this is the case in the three Baltic republics –, the department for creative industries appears to act as a liaison office with the economic development agencies of the government, somewhat reminding of the position of the department for international relations. This can enable the culture ministry to be actively involved into the promotion of the creative industries, even without funds to spend on economic areas outside of its jurisdiction.

We keep an eye for further descriptions of how advocacy for the creative industries is incorporated into cultural policy operations and organisations.

Péter Inkei, February 2011


See also: EU creative library, the most relevant documents of EU organisations, as well as Comments to the Green Paper.