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Finland/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

As indicated in the previous history chapter, the Finnish cultural policy model reflects the overall values of a social welfare state. From the point of view of decision-making and administration the Finnish cultural policy model is – or at least until recent time has been – a model of horizontal and vertical decentralisation and arm's length implementation. On the level of the central government, a number of expert bodies and agencies advise the Ministry of Education and Culture and also implement agreed upon policies. Some of these bodies have also independent decision making power. The horizontal decentralisation is often corporatist in nature: associations of professional artists and cultural workers play an important role in the formulation and implementation of policies concerning artists, as well as in determining grants and project funding.

Vertical decentralisation revolves around the axis of the central government (the state) and the local self-government (municipalities).The state is financially and administratively responsible for the national art and cultural institutions, but it also promotes wider and more equal access to the arts and culture by providing either statutory or discretionary financing for regional and local cultural institutions. Previously, this work was supported by grants-in-aid that were specifically targeted by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the early 1990s, these grants-in-aid were integrated in the overall system of statutory state transfers to municipalities. These automatic transfers, calculated on the basis of preset cost-compensation and equity criteria, now cover public libraries, institutions of adult education, non-institutional municipal cultural activities, basic arts education, museums, theatres and orchestras.

In the case of vertical decentralisation, the "third sector" also plays an important role. The role of professional cultural and art organisations as lobbyists was already indicated. Yet, the "third sector" has two other roles. Firstly, the voluntary organisations are important in enhancing cultural participation and amateur arts. Secondly, although dependant on public support the majority of cultural and art institutions (especially museums, theatres, but also some orchestras) are operated as non-public organisations (voluntary associations, foundations, non-profit joint stock companies).  

The Finnish model has three further unique features, which are, however, at present under pressure to change. The first feature is the reliance on public ownership and public budgets and, especially, on legislation, which has been used to guarantee the stability (statutory status) of public funding for the arts and cultural services. The statutory status implies that the criteria used for funding can only be changed through an Act of legislation passed by Parliament.

The second feature has been the central role in the financing of the arts and culture from special earmarked funds, that is the profits from Veikkaus Ltd., the state owned lotto, football and games pools and sports betting company, which, alongside the arts and culture, are also used to finance sports, youth policies and science. As an aftermath of the economic recession of the early 1990s these funds, originally planned for discretional use only, were used regularly to finance statutory state subsidies e.g. public libraries, theatres, orchestras and museums. Consequently, there was less central government money for new projects and initiatives. The reliance of the central government funding on the profits of Veikkaus also increased and reached the highest level in 2001, about 70% of the funds allocated in the budget of the Ministry of Education and Culture to the arts and cultural services. The new Acts on Lotto, Football and Games Pools and Sports Betting and on the Use of Veikkaus Profits have started to increase the amount of tax-based appropriations and lowered the share of Veikkaus profits in the state financing of the arts and culture. In 2010 this share of the Ministry's funding of the arts and culture was 51%.

The third unique feature of the Finnish public sector administration has been the lack of autonomous regional level governance – in general or in the arts and culture. On the other hand, the Arts Council system was extended, at the very beginning, to the regional level by creating the system of eleven provincial arts councils. As the central government provincial office administration was reformed, the name of the councils was changed to that of regional arts councils and their number was raised to thirteen. In 2008 a regional arts councils' unit was established at the Arts Council of Finland in order to better co-ordinate the work of the regional councils with each other and also with the national arts councils. The overall governance of the regional arts councils was removed from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Already in the old state subsidy system some of the art and cultural institutions financed jointly by the state and the municipalities received the status of regional institutions (regional historical and art museums, regional theatres) and were granted additional subsidies for their regional functions. Within the present financing system the Ministry of Education and Culture can furthermore designate some institutions as regionally significant and allocate them additional funding. These funding arrangements do not actually make the institutions really regional, with regard to their ownership and management, intellectual resources or programming. On the administrative level, the nineteen regional councils (that were originally associations of adjacent municipalities for physical planning) were reorganised for and invigorated by EU membership and have taken over a variety of regional planning and development functions, some even in the field of culture. Yet they are still associations of municipalities, not independent regional bodies and their role in enhancing cultural development in the regions is still rather marginal.


Chapter published: 14-08-2014

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              Council of Europe/ERICarts, "Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 15th edition", 2014 | ISSN 2222-7334