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France/ 8.2 Cultural consumption and participation  

8.2.1 Trends and figures

From the beginning of the 1970s, the Ministry of Culture and Communication regularly carries out a survey on cultural practices: Enquête sur les Pratiques culturelles des Français; which progressively become the main instrument of follow-up of the participation of French people in the field of culture and the media. The fifth edition of this Cultural Participation Survey dates from 2008, following those in 1973, 1981, 1988 and 1997 (see chapter 9.1). The survey scheme was identical each time: a poll with a representative sample of the population of metropolitan France aged from 15 years old, a sample stratified by regions and categories of urban area, with face-to-face interviews at the place of residence of the interviewee.

The survey covers the various forms of participation in cultural life, habits and consumptions (books and reading, listening to music, attendance at cultural establishments or events of amateur practices), while granting importance to the uses of traditional media (television, radio, press) and, since the 2008 edition, to the ICT linked to the development of digital technologies and devices.

Over a decade on from the 1997 results, those published in 2008 show the impact of ten years of change wrought by the booming digital and internet-based culture: the increasing power of screen culture, the declining popularity of television and radio among the younger generations, declining daily newspaper and book readership and developments in content production and auto-production.

The comparison of the 2008 results concerning global attendance at cultural establishments, with those of the previous survey, confirms the remarkable stability of the behaviour regarding cultural visits and outings. The "cultivated" and subsidised outings (to theatre, dance performances, concerts of classical music, fine arts and contemporary arts museums and exhibitions, historical heritage monuments) remain the privilege of the most qualified social classes. In 2008, half of French people (51%) had not attended any live performance in a cultural establishment during the previous twelve months. About 60% of French people had not visited any exhibition or heritage site during the last twelve months.

Furthermore, according to a study of the INSEE (National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies) in 2009, 61% of senior executives went to the theatre at least once in the year against 20% of workers. 81% of executives read at least one book against 28% of workers, which is 2.9 times less. According to a study of 2012, where heritage attracts a much bigger population, 67% of senior executives, against 20% of workers, visit museums or exhibitions (La visite des musées, des expositions et des monuments, CRÉDOC : Centre de recherche pour l'étude et l'observation des conditions de vie). The study also shows that levels of income determine cultural practices and participation. In January 2016, a report by Fondation Jean-Jaurès also underlines the unequal access to culture according to socio-professional categories (see J.M. Tobelem, La culture pour tous. Des solutions pour la démocratisation ?

These results are often interpreted as a certain failure of the policy of cultural democratisation, which is considered as a mainstream line of action of the Ministry of Culture since its creation (see chapter 4.1 and chapter 8.2.2). We can also see in these results a certain questioning of the books and reading policies, which need to be revised in the context of digital transition; and a threat to the future of concerts of classical music, which are losing audiences from generation to generation.

However, the retrospective analysis of the five editions of the survey also highlights a global increase in cultural practices and consumption: three French people out of ten have an artistic activity today, against 1.5 in the 1970s. We notice, for example, a massive increase in listening to music and amateur development of the practice (100% for drama, 300% for dance). There has also been an increasing prevalence of screen-based culture and globally an increased attendance at cultural establishments. In the field of heritage we also notice increasing audience participation. This concerns in particular the major Parisian sites, as shown by the 2014 figures: more than 9 million visitors, of which 70% are foreign visitors, to the Louvre (including the Louvre-Lens branch), which consolidates its world first place; 7,7 million entrances at Versailles (80% of foreigners); around 3,5 million to Beaubourg, including about 40% foreign visitors; and 3.5 million visitors to the Musée d'Orsay. However, foreign tourist visits decreased because of the terrorist attacks of November 2015 in Paris and July 2016 in Nice (see chapter 4.2.2).

A study by DEPS about Online Cultural Practices in France and in Europe in 2014, shows that more than four out of five households have access to internet in France (83%), a bit more than the European average share (81%). France ranks 8th in Europe, after Northern countries (Luxemburg, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, UK, Germany). Online digital cultural usages concern about half of the European users (49%) and France is slightly below the average (47%). The most frequent usages are:

  • online press and news reading,
  • watching and downloading films, music and video games
  • online radio listening.

The storage and sharing of cultural content via cloud systems remains a minority practice, concerning only one third of internet users.

Chapter published: 17-07-2018

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