COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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Belgium/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

Flemish Community

Cultural policy objectives were defined in the cultural policy document for the years 2009-2014. The main strategic objectives are:

  • development of sustainable cultural policy, by funding policy on documentation, research, field analyses and via the development of data registration systems and establishing new equilibriums in the cultural field via the implementation of e.g. the Arts Decree (between structural and project funding, between production and distribution,...);
  • a focus on participation (active and passive) and cultural diversity as engines for innovation in culture. This will not be done by the introduction of new decrees, but through further implementation, evaluation and development of the existing legal framework (Participation Decree, the Circus Decree, Decree on Local Cultural Policy, Decree on Cultural Heritage);
  • e-culture and digitisation (stimulating digitisation of and providing access to cultural content, the development of a "digital library");
  • cultural competence development (incl. measuring the effects of the Decree on Amateur Arts);
  • attention for cultural management and the cultural economy (stimulating entrepreneurship and alternative financing for cultural organisations, focusing on the position of emerging and individual artists, linking with employment policy);
  • strengthening of international cultural policy (via the development of a new policy for residencies and international distribution of the arts, a redefinition of the major institutions of the Flemish Community, the development of the international position of the Flemish art collection ("Collectie Vlaanderen"),...); and
  • stimulating and developing "eco-culture".

To stimulate reflection on these topics and building bridges with the Flemish government's long term strategic policy plan "ViA" (Vlaanderen in Actie), the Minister established the so-called "Cultuurforum": in the first half of 2010, professionals and experts gathered in seven workshops dedicated to the topics mentioned above, to formulate long term "breakthrough" initiatives (http://www.cultuurforum.be).

For a number of years, attempts have been made to give cultural policy a scientific basis through the work of the Unit for Cultural Policy in the Culture Section of the Ministry and externally commissioned studies. Scientific research on culture and cultural policy received impetus with the founding of a support centre Re-Creatief Vlaanderen, a consortium of academic research units belonging to the universities of Ghent, Louvain, Brussels (VUB) and the Europese Hogeschool Brussel (EHSAL). Their research focused on different aspects of cultural practice and participation. In 2007, the support centre on "Policy Relevant Research on Culture, Youth and Sports" was opened. This support centre continues the role of Re-Creatief Vlaanderen. Its focus includes four different research lines: arts and heritage, socio-cultural work, e-culture and economic aspects of culture. As a common project for the policy fields of Culture, Youth and Sport, the support centre has also continued Re-Creatief Vlaanderen's participation survey research (a second edition was published in early 2011).

French-speaking Community of Belgium

The French-speaking Community of Belgium’s new government was set up in July 2014 and has issued a Community Policy Statement for the 2014-2019 legislature.

Cultural policies are involved in transverse policies, notably forming part of the prospects for ‘better coexistence’: the promotion of gender equality (implementation of gender mainstreaming), preventing and combatting discrimination in all its forms, fighting all forms of racism, including on the internet and social media, and respect for sexual orientation.

The areas falling under the General Culture Administration are shared by several Ministers: Culture, Youth and Media.

CULTURE

Culture is considered to be a vector for emancipation, strengthening social bonds, and for human and economic development. Cultural development at the territorial level which helps to identify the needs, aspirations and desires of the public is likewise regarded as a major issue.

Moreover, in the context of globalisation, cultural policy will focus on strengthening the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, primarily by undertaking

  • to preserve culture from the laws of the marketplace alone;
  • to preserve the right to maintain, adopt and implement policies for the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions;
  • to promote and defend a policy on cultural exception; and
  • to promote the French language as well as indigenous languages in the various media.

There is a strong fabric of associations across all artistic and cultural sectors, as well as in the fields of non-formal education and citizenship, which are backed by cultural policies.

The specific measures envisaged include:

  • implementing the association charter, which enshrines complementarity between public action and action by associations; and
  • encouraging the voluntary sector notably through support for the training of volunteers giving up their free time to run associations.

There are four priorities for action in cultural policy:

1.  Supporting creation

  • accompanying artists in the process of creation;
  • drawing up an employment register for all jobs in the artistic sector;
  • supporting the arts office in its vocation of accompanying and providing guidance for artists;
  • fostering meetings between creators, the cultural and creative industries and public or private funding providers;
  • accompanying artists who are active in emerging disciplines;
  • encouraging artists’ residencies by providing them with an appropriate infrastructure; and
  • looking for supplementary funding streams: by supporting the award of short-term, low-interest loans to cultural economy projects via the Creative Industries Investment Fund (St’art) and promoting crowdfunding, micro-credit, patronage or sponsorship.

2.  Reinforcing access to culture

  • access to culture in schools;
  • evaluating the existing mechanisms, such as ‘school culture’ and ‘school shows’;
  • encouraging synergies between schools and the cultural world: museums, libraries, artists, academies, etc., for example by encouraging artists’ residencies in schools;
  • boosting accessibility measures, such as free entry to museums on the first Sunday of the month and developing teaching tools designed to provide cultural and artistic education for school students;
  • urging all cultural operators to include an educational, schools dimension in their cultural or artistic planning;
  • developing training programmes for artists, cultural operators and culture professionals around educational approaches and programmes for artistic and cultural education for teachers and trainee teachers;
  • access to culture for all sectors of the public;
  • placing value on amateur artistic practices;
  • evaluating and adapting mechanisms to promote access to culture;
  • maintaining and focusing policies offering reduced rates for those on low incomes and families;
  • promoting collaborations between cultural operators and social players in terms of cultural mediation;
  • supporting transverse, structural consultation between all the sectors involved in books and publishing (education, early years, literacy, new technologies, culture).

3.  Ensuring better dissemination and greater appreciation of culture and heritage

  • supporting places disseminating, promoting and raising awareness of artistic disciplines, supporting networks of dissemination centres;
  • developing the network of ‘labelled booksellers’ and giving specific thought to press booksellers;
  • ensuring that the professional cultural operators such as amateur dramatic companies, musical groups, academy projects and so on give space to the dissemination of local initiatives in their planning;
  • urging public broadcasting channels to showcase emerging artists (at prime time);
  • promoting emerging or little-known disciplines (fairground arts, circus, plastic and visual arts, digital arts, street arts);
  • continuing to digitise heritage and guarantee free access to the various types of archives.

4.  Continuing to optimise cultural governance

Consultation between various levels of power will be regulated through the creation of a body for cooperation on cultural policy for transverse issues: economy, heritage, employment, tourism, continuing education, etc.

It is all about the user: administrative processes are being optimised and harmonised, internet sites developed, electronic forms developed, procedures and decisions made legible, payment deadlines reduced, the principle of legitimate expectations is being applied and a single dossier brought in for intersectoral projects

Some examples of what these measures will mean in concrete terms:

  • a review is underway into the remit and running of the advisory bodies;
  • a code for cultural affairs is being drafted for the sake of harmonisation and simplification; and
  • the non-merchant employment register is being developed.

YOUTH

Youth is a transverse concern where provision is being made for synergies between the various sectors where the federated entities are responsible, specifically in the fields of culture, social affairs, health and sport.

The following are priorities in terms of youth culture:

  • getting citizenship and democracy embedded at the heart of youth policies;
  • evaluating the decrees governing the processes for recognising and subsidising operators;
  • valuing the training of volunteer leaders;
  • promoting youth and its diversity in the public media;
  • supporting the Youth Council and participation by young people and children in local life; and
  • countering hate speech on the internet and social media.

MEDIA

The media are faced with new issues and challenges. They offer massive potential for new jobs in the cultural and creative economy; they shape cultural identity. There is a crucial need for pluralist, diverse media and high-quality programmes.

The priorities defined include the following:

  • fostering synergies between media, culture, the economy, the digital world and innovation;
  • consolidating the RTBF’s public service missions;
  • revitalising the media landscape, promoting the French-speaking Community of Belgium’s cultural and artistic players and encouraging media partnerships at local level;
  • developing digital cultural and creative enterprises; and
  • developing media education training actions and programmes and training in the use and creation of the new digital platforms

In the context of technological developments and the globalisation of audio-visual services, the French-speaking Community of Belgium is paying particular attention to adapting its regulatory structures to allow effective regulation in the sector.

German-speaking Community

A main issue is the promotion of the linguistic and cultural characteristics of the German speaking community, which form the basis of its institutional autonomy.

The associations working at the basic levels of cultural life, i.e. adult education, youth work, media and folklore have been given an institutional foundation; their dissemination and development are financially supported.

Arts and cultural heritage receive financial support. An important instrument here is the transfer of competencies for cultural and natural heritage (02-02-1994) and archaeological sites (01-01-2000) to the German-speaking Community by the Walloon Region. Buildings and landscapes worth protecting could be classified and modalities for the restorations of protected buildings through public funds were agreed upon.

The public Broadcasting and Television Centre of the German-speaking Community operates a TV station since 1999 and opened his own second radio channel in 2002.

A major part of the policy is cooperation with the other Communities in Belgium, neighbouring regions and other EU Member states in all the aforementioned areas.


Chapter published: 02-12-2014

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