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In 2014, negotiations regarding the national Unemployment Provision Convention, which planned to modify the specific regime of temporary performing artists and technicians, caused a series of strikes that troubled several summer festivals.


In 2013, a number of different studies measured the economic weight of the cultural industries.

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France/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

In 2016, the law on freedom of creation, architecture and heritage is promulgated (loi n° 2016-925 du 7 juillet 2016). It is an ambitious act that concerns all the fields of cultural policies (see chapter 5.2). The main objectives of the 119 law articles arte to assert and guarantee the freedom of creation and the cultural diversity, to advocate the role of artists within society, to foster a better and wider cultural access for all, and to reinforce and modernise heritage protection.

Cultural democratisation and cultural democracy

Since the creation of the Ministry of Culture, two mainstream and crosscutting objectives have oriented and motivated cultural policies in France.

On the one hand, the objective of cultural democratisation, which characterises the policy of the Malraux Ministry, 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 (community culture and arts centres) in the 1960s, low or free entrance fees to the national cultural institutions, and actions to expand cultural audiences. One example from 1963 is when 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 all persons under 26 living in 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 the artistic and cultural expressions and requests, in all their diversity, a non-hierarchical approach: widening of the ministry's scope of activities, support to emerging practices or creative disciplines that could previously have been considered to be "minor art", like street and circus arts, comics, fashion and decorative arts, jazz, "contemporary 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 and to develop audiences and participation.

Decentralisation, devolution and agreement-based cooperation (see chapter 2.1 and chapter 3.3)

In the 1980s, the French State introduced a territorial decentralisation policy that increased the devolution of responsibilities to autonomous territorial authorities with elected governing assemblies: municipalities, départments and regions. Since the constitutional revision law of 28 March 2003, the first article of the Constitution states that France "shall be organised on a decentralised basis". Territorial authorities developed their own cultural policies. In parallel, the Ministry of Culture set up its own decentralised departments (services déconcentrés), the Regional Directorates of Cultural Affairs (DRAC). The DRAC became the common and regular level of management of ministerial policies.

The joint action of the decentralised State departments and of the territorial authorities gave rise to territorialised and cooperative cultural governance. Public actors articulate their interventions within the framework of a whole range of multi-level agreement procedures: cultural development agreements, "City Contracts" and "Major Urban Projects", "State-Region Project Contracts", etc. In general, the State focuses on the circulation / diffusion policies and major institutions, and on the implementation of the ministerial orientations in the regions, with a view to achieving balanced territorial cultural planning / organisation (aménagement culturel du territoire). Territorial authorities ensure the maintenance of the institutions that they supervise, advocate their cultural identity (in a broad sense), and support creation in its local and international dimensions. The decentralisation is also effective through an increase in autonomy of the public institutions and establishments that are supervised by the Ministry of Culture. This trend is also realised within the framework of contracts with objectives that aim, for example at developing audiences, special actions towards youth or the disabled, diversifying sources of funding, etc. Since 2012, the Ministry wants to reactivate the Council of Territorial Authorities for Cultural Development (Conseil des collectivités territoriales pour le développement culturel, CCTDC), in particular in a context of territorial reform that could impact the respective responsibilities and interventions of the different levels of territorial authorities.

Arts and cultural education (see chapter 8.3)

Official statements regularly reaffirm that arts and cultural education is a priority of cultural policies, which allow the fostering of individual self-fulfilment, and the broadening of cultural practices, participation and audiences. Since the 1970s many schemes and devices have reinforced arts and cultural education in and out of schools, the educational mission of the cultural institutions, and also the professional training for arts and culture occupations. In 2000, the ministers of Culture and of Education launched a five-year plan for the development of arts and culture in schools: the Lang-Tasca Plan. In 2005 this policy was revived, with in particular the installation of a High Council of the Arts and Cultural Education (Haut Conseil de l'éducation artistique et culturelle). In 2008, the history of art was added to the compulsory curricula from primary and secondary schools. In 2012, the Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti launched a national consultation to develop a new national scheme for arts and cultural education (Bouët-Desplechin report Pour un accès de tous les jeunes à l'art et à la culture : ).

Temporary performing artists and technicians (intermittents du spectacle) (see  chapter 4.2.9)

Artists and technicians working in the performing arts or audiovisual and entertainment industries (cinema, television, etc.) can have specific social security coverage, derogatory to the national Unemployment Provision Convention, designed for people without regular activity or steady employment, or multiple employers. For about ten years, the Ministry of Culture has to face the question of the preservation of this exceptional status. Every new round of negotiation between the social partners provokes marches and strikes: in 2003, 2014 and 2016 several festivals were troubled, sometimes cancelled, theatres were occupied. In 2014 the Prime Minister appoints a conciliation board (mission « Archambault-Combrexelle-Gille », names of the coordinators) to redefine the intermittence regime in a more stable and secure way. In April 2016, the social partners of the concerned sectors came to an agreement that maintains the regime while modifying some points (increasing participation of employers to the financing, for instance). Moreover, in September 2016 year the Government set up a national fund to support durable employment in performing arts, the Fonpeps.

Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity is an asset of globalisation. Respecting this diversity is an identity and cultural requirement. France was particularly active in this debate, which was introduced within the framework of the European Union and of the World Trade Organisation in the 1990s, with at first the idea to protect a "cultural exception" (exception culturelle) within free trade agreements. This idea does not mean that a certain culture is exceptional compared to another, but that culture and cultural goods and products must be considered to have an "exceptional" status, which distinguishes them from current consumption goods and which must be somehow guaranteed by public support and specific rules, derogatory to free trade rules. French Ministers of Culture have advocated this approach for twenty years: asserting the "exceptional" character of culture responds, paradoxically, to an economic requirement, that is the promotion of European cultural industries in their pluralistic diversity. So the debate on the exception of cultural goods and products within trade agreements resulted in the question of the advocacy of cultural diversity on an international scale. The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted in 2005 and came into effect in 2007. Advocating cultural diversity is also one of the major policy lines of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (see chapter 3.4.2). In 2013, 17 Ministers of Culture, and 15 European Film Agencies, including France, officially asked that cultural and audiovisual sectors be excluded from the project of free trade agreement between the EU and the USA (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), with the leitmotiv "culture is not an ordinary commodity".

Economic dimension and impact of culture – cultural economy

In 1982 Jack Lang, in its speech in Mexico City during a world conference of Ministers of Culture, said the famous phrase "economy and culture, same fight" (« Économie et culture, même combat »). This phrase underlines the importance of cultural activities as factors of economic development - which prefigured the notion of a creative economy that is popular since the end of the 1990s, and emphasises at the same time that creation and the arts cannot be reduced to only economic and financial terms.

Digital transition, information and communication technology, cultural economy (see chapter 4.2.11)

The development of digital technologies notably transformed information and communication devices, which impacts on many domains of cultural life: cultural consumption, participation and practices, creative processes, and protection of heritage. One of the recent steps in this evolution was the development of interactive sites (Web2.0), smartphones and the open data movement, by which public information must be freely accessible and available for use.

From 2009 to 2011, the Statisics, Planning and Studies Department of the Ministry (DEPS) realised prospective studies on the future of cultural policies in the age of digital technology. They are presented in the reports Culture and Media 2020 and Culture and Media 2030 (see chapter 9.1). At an operating level, since 2002 some instruments have been set up to foster multimedia and digital artistic creation: DICRéAM (Dispositif pour la Création Artistique Multimédia, system for multimedia artistic creation), New Media Projects Fund.

The question of digital transition entails two main issues:

(First issue) To regulate free access to creative works and protect copyright on the internet, a dedicated public body was created in 2009, the Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet (HADOPI: High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection on the Internet). However, the regulation of the cultural economy in the digital era is a difficult and complex task for public authorities, as the rapid technological evolution constantly modifies the questions and the problems at stake. In this context, in 2012 the ministry set up the commission Culture-acte2 to renew the system of cultural policies in the era of digital technology ( The report by this commission recommends, among others, to suppress the HADOPI and to transfer its missions to the CSA (French Broadcasting Authority, see chapter 4.2.6), and to create a tax of 1% on tablets and Smartphones to finance the development of the cultural and creative activities. Moreover, the departments of the ministry developed a "Guide for data on culture", which proposes to cultural actors and stakeholders simple and relevant legal tools to diffuse and re-use their digital public data.

After six years of legal battle, Google and the National Union of Publishers (Syndicat national des éditeurs) signed in 2012 an outline agreement on the digitalisation of the works free of rights, and on the referencing of the works. The Ministry of Culture encouraged the legal action of the SNE. Another conflict with Google had to do with the remuneration for referencing press articles and in February 2013, President Holland and Éric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, came to an agreement, unprecedented in the world, which plans a 60 million EUR fund to facilitate the digital transition of the press sector. Another agreement was signed in 2013 between Google and Sacem (which collects and redistributes the income from authors', composers' and music publishers' rights) about the platform YouTube. In 2016, French justice launched a judicial inquiry on Google France to investigate about tax fraud and money laundering.

(2nd issue) At the same time, the majority of cultural institutions set up digital devices to facilitate access to arts and culture and attract the largest audiences: on-line visits, digitalisation of heritage and library collections, museum collections, etc. The majority of these devices are available on the portal (see chapter 9.2), which proposes a unique access point to more than 44 heritage databases, the annual schedules of more than 2 000 cultural sites and institutions and 900 festivals, articles and bibliographical resources, multimedia productions, interactive sites on French language, etc.

In September 2013 the Minister organised the first edition of the "Digital Autumn" (Automne numérique ( ): series of events to promote digital practices in artistic creation and education, opening of the "Silicon Valois" that is a co-working space at the Ministry (located rue de Valois in Paris), partnerships with Microsoft, Creative Commons, Open Knowledge Foundation or the national research centre on computational science (INRIA). The Ministry proposes a database on digitalised heritage, in collaboration with the European catalogue Michael. They also launched several call for projects to support the digitalisation of heritage and creation, or to develop innovative digital cultural services.

Chapter published: 17-07-2018

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