7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions
Since the mid-1990s, the transformation of organisations under state and municipality control has been a recurring topic. On the level of the local authorities, the municipalities changed the status of their publicly owned organisations to public benefit organisations i.e. to independent bodies that receive public grants, and this is the only possible and suitable form for a bigger non-profit organisation according to valid legislation in the field of culture, such as theatres, philharmonic orchestras etc. This transformation is most visible in the capital city of Prague. The first period of the transformation of theatres from state organisations established by Prague was finished in 2004. These included 4 theatres, two of which became public benefit organisations and two became limited companies. Four-year grant contracts were made with all entities, but when they expired, the fragility of independence for theatres became apparent. Grants for the future period were radically cut and theatres waited for several months for their payments. In 2008, the city announced the second period of transformation of 6 theatres. This second period was criticised by arts professionals. The main reason was the lack of clarity of the rules of transformation, the non-transparency of individual steps and the absence of a clear vision on the part of the city. After a short pause the issue was re-opened in late 2011 and early 2012. At present the situation is still unclear; see also chapter 4.3.
The Ministry of Culture transformed the International Music Festival Prague Spring into a public benefit organisation of which it is co-founder. Since 2006, the Ministry is able to make decisions on the division, integration or merging of current state-managed organisations or on their cancellation, according to the Act on Some Kinds of Support. The Ministry recently merged Laterna Magika and the National Theatre on 1 January 2010 and as of 1 January 2012 Prague State Opera with the National Theatre.
There are repeated discussions on the state level about the preparation of suitable legislation that would regulate the conditions of operation of public cultural institutions and draft legislation has been prepared. However, the drafts have always been rejected by the Ministry of Finance.