Author: Jean-Cédric Delvainquière
The history of cultural policies in France, from their origins under royal patronage in the 16th century until the present, is marked by: the central role the state has played in promoting and organising knowledge (Collège de France, the National Library), the arts (Comédie-Française, the Louvre Museum) and culture, and the gradual creation of administrative structures and budgeted funds (creation of the Fine Arts Secretariat in the 19th Century and the establishment of a separate Ministry of Culture in July 1959).
André Malraux, who wrote the decree of the first ministry stated that "the ministry in charge of cultural affairs has the role of making available capital works from humanity, and initially from France, to the greatest possible number of French people, of ensuring the largest audience for our cultural heritage, and of supporting the creation of the spirit and works of art which enrich it" (Decree n° 59-889, known as the "founding decree", of 24 July 1959). This decree opened the path for its successors in the areas of: heritage protection, contemporary creation, distribution and education, devolution of the administration and regulation of the cultural industries. André Malraux set up a Ministry of Cultural Affairs from the existing directorates of the Ministry of Education and the National Film Centre (Ministry for Industry). The new administration's primary aims were to promote contemporary creation in all artistic disciplines and a broader participation in cultural activities, especially in the areas of theatre, music and heritage. André Malraux wanted to set up Arts Centres (Maisons de la Culture) in each French département in order to stimulate contemporary artistic creation and disseminate culture on a broad scale. France is geographically divided into 96 administrative divisions known as départements. Maisons de la Culture were eventually set up in 9 cities. As part of the move towards déconcentration, three regional cultural affairs directorates were set up in 1969.
Jacques Duhamel (1971-1973) carried out a simultaneously interdisciplinary and interdepartmental policy aimed at integrating culture into society. He set up procedures to establish partnership contracts between the government and cultural institutions (television, cinema industry, theatre companies). The Fonds d'intervention culturel (FIC) was created in order to finance innovative partnerships with other ministries. In the field of visual arts, the 1% system (which ruled that 1% of the construction costs of a new public building must be set aside for the funding of an art work for that same building) was extended to include all existing public buildings.
While continuing to follow the policy lines initiated by André Malraux and Jacques Duhamel, the following six ministers introduced their own changes. In 1974, Michel Guy created a breakthrough for young artists and contemporary art by signing the first of a series of cultural development agreements with municipalities and régions. In 1977, the Georges Pompidou Contemporary Arts Centre was opened and the Museums Finance Act was adopted in 1978; 1980 was declared Year of National Heritage.
During this period, the Ministry of Culture stepped up its moves towards modernisation and its involvement with contemporary society. Measures included an increase in cultural funding; the widening of the ministry's scope of activities to include new art forms; the integration of culture into the economic world; and the development of audiovisual communications. The Ministry received ongoing support from the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, who gave his stamp of approval to a series of major construction projects known as the "Grands Travaux" (Arche de la Défense, the Bastille Opera House, the Grand Louvre, the National Library...). The Ministry's budget was doubled in 1982 and gradually increased to represent 1% of the state budget: increasing from 2.6 billion francs in 1981 to 13.8 billion in 1993.
Moves towards déconcentration were stepped up with the completion of a network of regional cultural affairs directorates (DRAC), which collaborate with the local authorities. Several major training institutions were either restored or established: École nationale supérieure de la création industrielle (ENSCI), Institut national du patrimoine (heritage), the two Conservatoires nationaux supérieurs de musique (Paris and Lyon) and the École du Louvre. Over a period of 12 years, more than 8 000 jobs were created in the cultural field. Arts education in schools was modernised, new disciplines were taught (theatre, cinema, art history...), and a range of schemes were organised to raise the awareness of children about culture, such as arts projects, school visits to the cinema, heritage projects etc. As a result of economic changes and the growth of "home-based" cultural activity, the Ministry began to place more emphasis on the cultural industries (books, records, cinema, audiovisual) with a view to regulating the market (aid mechanisms for the film industry, price regulations on books, radio broadcasting quotas for French-language music...). The law on the use of the French language was adopted in 1994. A range of initiatives aimed at the "problem" districts was introduced. Culture was included in regional development initiatives.
Over a period of three years, the Minister of Culture carried out a policy aimed at broadening cultural participation with emphasis on the development of heritage, the performing arts and new technologies. Catherine Tasca's initiatives were mainly directed towards cultural diversity, across-the-board access to arts education and state reform via decentralisation. With regard to audio-visual communication, she sought to reinforce the government's regulatory function and increase high quality production in France without curbing the dynamism of the private sector.
In May 2002, in the first government of President Jacque Chirac's second term of office, Jean-Jacques Aillagon was appointed Minister of Culture and Communication. In one of his first interviews, he stated that "The right wing, heedful of modernity, is capable of [implementing] a far-reaching cultural policy."
In March 2004, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres became Minister. His term was mainly spent calming the crisis of "intermittent du spectacle", and regulating access to new technologies.
During the last forty years, local and regional authorities increased their public support for culture. The municipalities, as owners of certain cultural facilities such as museums, municipal theatres, libraries and music schools, are now the main providers of government funds for culture. Encouraged by the Ministry of Culture and Communication to draw up their own cultural policies, the municipalities, followed by the départements and régions, have become involved in local public cultural action to a degree far exceeding the obligations laid down in the devolution laws of 1982, 1983 and 1992.