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France/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.3 Cultural policy objectives

Since the creation of the Ministry in 1959, two mainstream and crosscutting objectives have oriented and motivated the cultural policies conducted in France by the different authorities and governments.

On the one hand, the objective of cultural democratisation, which characterises the policy of the Malraux Ministry and aims at widespread access to a conventional offer that is considered to be representative of high culture, of heritage and artistic excellence: opening of Maisons de la Culture in the 1960s, low or free entrance fees to the national cultural institutions, actions to expand the cultural audiences. For instance in 1963 the Greek tragedy The Persians by Aeschylus was broadcasted on public television at peak viewing time. More recently in 2009 the Ministry of Culture granted free entrance to the permanent collections of national museums and national monuments, for those aged under 26 living in the European Union.

On the other hand, from the 1970s-1980s, this approach that could be considered to be restrictive and sometimes elitist, was complemented by the cultural democracy approach, which expands the content and the consideration of expressions and artistic and cultural requests in all their diversity, with no hierarchical approach: widening of the ministry's scope of activities, support to emerging practices or creative disciplines that could have been previously considered to be "minor art", like street and circus arts, comics, fashion and decorative arts, jazz, "current or non-classical music" [musiques actuelles].

In this context, cultural development refers to the search for balance between these two regimes of cultural policy, with no elitism or demagogy, in order to reconcile high standards and openness.

The first article of the Decree n° 2012-776 of 24 May 2012, which is adapted from the "founding decree" of July 24th 1959 by André Malraux, states the main assignments and missions of the Minister of Culture and Communication:

  • make the major works of humankind accessible to the maximum number of people, with particular emphasis on French works;
  • protect and promote all the elements of cultural heritage;
  • foster the creation of artistic and intellectual works;
  • favour the development of artistic teaching and practices;
  • contribute to the development of cultural and artistic education of children and young adults;
  • encourage the local cultural initiatives, develop the links between State and territorial cultural policies and participate to the devolution policy conducted by the government;
  • help to develop cultural industries, new technologies for creation and diffusion of cultural heritage, and to promote cultural digital contents and services;
  • define, coordinate and evaluate the policies for performing and visual arts;
  • ensure the worldwide influence of French and French-speaking [francophone] arts and culture; and
  • contribute to the external French cultural policy and to the policies for the French cultural institutional network abroad.

Thus, since its creation, one of the essential missions of the Ministry of Culture and Communication has been to encourage access to and participation in both heritage and the works of contemporary creativity. But the evolution of cultural and socio-economic life has had an impact on the evolution of the objectives of cultural policy: for instance in the 2012 decree that sets the remit of the Ministry of Culture, the question of digital cultural contents and services was added. At the same time, despite such technological developments, the political vision remains focused on reaching new audiences for all forms of cultural expression. That is why audience development appears to be one of the first objectives of cultural policy, and all the recent Ministers have stated that cultural and artistic education is one of their priorities.

Chapter published: 08-05-2017

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