Belgium/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate
4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
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).
Main priorities for cultural policy in recent years revolve around the following overarching themes:
- culture and the city: partnership arrangements (town or county contracts) made with local authorities (towns, municipalities and rural areas) in fields such as reading, heritage, performing arts and cultural centres. This policy highlights the role of the towns and rural areas as locomotives of integrated cultural development;
- reviewing contracts with cultural institutions of community importance: In the past few years the government of the French Community has been reviewing the contracts it has established with large cultural institutions including the public radio and television stations, opera, orchestra, main theatres, dance companies and cultural centres. The purpose is to review their mission, to examine the public investment in these institutions and to find new means for the institutions to become more financially independent;
- develop legislation in the following fields: the performing arts, museums, folklore and ethnology. These fields were not originally included in the Cultural Pact Act of 1973;
- revisiting out dated policies: Legislation passed in the 1970s has recently been subjected to major face-lifts or is in the process of being analysed;
- the development of the functions of analysis, observation, assessment and evaluation of cultural policies. Amongst others, the development of standardised databases that allow to draw up statistics on practices, cultural employment and the flow of funds;
- public-private partnership in the media field;
- cultural participation: New initiatives focussed on increasing access for disadvantaged groups to cultural institutions;
- culture and trade: Focussing on WTO and MAI agreements, emphasis on protecting cultural exceptions within the context of the developing cultural industries;
- mobility of young people and artists: Including support for cross-border projects and European cultural networks;
- the renovation and adaptation of industrial sites for cultural purposes; and
- seeking cooperation agreements with the different levels of authority: regional, provincial and local.
Recently, new priorities have appeared:
- support for the development of transborder projects and European cultural networks;
- increased support for multi-disciplinary projects and to emerging cultures (urban culture, culture linked to new technologies, etc.);
- professionalisation of employment and support for the training of cultural officers;
- access to the knowledge-based society and to new technologies;
- support to digital creation;
- use of new technologies at the levels of broadcasting, communication, and digitalisation;
- equal opportunities (equal opportunities for men and women, equal social and cultural opportunities);
- valorisation of cross-cultures and cultural diversity, support for the plurality of the artistic contents;
- role of the media in cultural and artistic promotion and diffusion;
- preparation of an associative pact: to objectify co-operation between civil society and the authorities;
- development of the relationships and of the projects between culture and school;
- concern of recognising architecture as a cultural matter; and
- concern of the administrative effectiveness and transparency in its relations with its interlocutors.
The "General States of Culture"
The government of the French community (2004-2009) has decided to implement the General States of Culture: a participative process for the setting-up of a global cultural policy that works by objectives.
An intersector debate, decompartmentalised and transversal, is opened to all cultural key players, as well as to all the political and administrative players across every level of authority. Each player is invited to propose written contributions. Thematic meetings are organised in decentralisation.
The following objectives are announced:
- reinforcement of the cultural means: better repartition of responsibilities and competencies between the levels of authorities;
- priority to quality: the dispersion of assistances is harmful to quality, necessity to seek excellence, importance of the plurality of aesthetics, need to enter in a project logic;
- reinforcement of the positioning of artists in the public space: opening of the public space to works of art, importance of architecture, media broadcast quota, better access;
- development of transversality: links between the different artistic genres, between cultural, educational, media, and social operators, importance of synergies, importance of multidisciplinary projects, of projects between amateurs and professionals;
- improvement of the administration: organisation according to cultural realities, in a way that is more transverse and horizontal, quality of the relationship with cultural operators, transparency of information (in particular regarding financing);
- development and valorisation of cultural diversity: endogenous languages, popular cultures, traditional expressions, cultures of the populations of immigrant origins;
- development of the audiences and of the diversity of the audiences: accessibility, information, sensitising, mediation, amateurs' practices;
- guarantee of geographical and socio-economic accessibility: local cultural actions, decentralisation, specificities of the rural world, pricing policy;
- development of creation and diffusion; determining cultural engines: infrastructures, quotas, international relations, diffusion, sponsoring, cultural industries;
- development of participation: associative and citizen practices, cultural and artistic expression and practices;
- stimulation of inter-culture: projects that blend various cultures, populations of different origins, development of exchanges; and
- protection of human dignity and humanism: education on the media, citizenship, and on the prevention of violence and conflicts.
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: 09-03-2012