The budget for cultural affairs on the national level rose by 9.7% from 2010 to 2012, in contrast with some of the regional or local accounts.
6.1 Short overview
The financing of culture in the Federal Republic of Germany rests on several pillars. In keeping with the subsidiarity principle, culture – and thus the public financing thereof – is first and foremost the responsibility of the citizens and their local communities. Only when the scope or nature of a cultural policy task is beyond the community's resources does the state step in as a sponsor. The municipalities thus bear the lion's share of the cost of financing public cultural activities and institutions, followed by the Länder. Due to its limited competence in the field of cultural policy, the Federal Government provides only a small share of the total support for culture in Germany (see chapter 6.2). Impossible to quantify through financial statistics – but by no means insignificant – are the funds stemming from other policy fields, especially job promotion. In Germany's western Länder, the overwhelming majority of these funds were allocated to third sector sponsors of cultural activities and institutions even prior to unification. In the eastern Länder, they have taken on great importance in the course of the past ten years for all cultural institutions.
The municipalities, the Länder and the Federal Government operate on the basis of rather different definitions of the term "culture", however. To give an example: scientific museums and libraries are included in "culture" within the statistics on the municipality level by Deutscher Städtetag, whereas they are excluded at the level of the Länder by the Kultusministerkonferenz or at the federal level by the Federal Office for Statistics. Another challenging aspect for comparisons is different calculation methods: the principle of gross expenditures by the Deutscher Städtetag and the net expenditures by the Kultusministerkonferenz. As a result, public cultural expenditure statistics often varied considerably, in some cases by billions of EUR.
A partial harmonisation was achieved when the Federal Office for Statistics co-operated with statistical offices of some Länder to produce the 2nd Cultural Finance Report, published in 2003. For the first time, the offices for statistics of the federal, Länder and municipality level agreed on a generally admitted term of "culture", which is oriented towards the definitions of EUROSTAT and UNESCO in order to facilitate comparisons at international level. Since then the following issues were measured by the offices for statistics for "cultural issues": theatre, music, scientific and other museums, scientific and other libraries, archives, heritage issues, cultural administration, academies of Arts and foreign cultural policy (see Table 4). Furthermore, "cultural related issues" includeradio and television broadcasters and media companies, adult education centres and church affairs. Moreover, the principle of basic funds has been chosen to constitute the expenditure. The following cultural finance reports – 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 – maintained the described concept of culture and the expenditure principles.
The discussions around a standardisation of cultural statistics were also taken up by the Enquete-Kommission of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament) on "Culture in Germany", which submitted, in its final report, a suggestion on the harmonisation of cultural statistics. In 2008, this suggestion was discussed and at least partly introduced.
Regardless of these differences, cultural expenditure increased disproportionately in comparison to other areas of public expenditure in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s and the 2000s however – aside from the rise in cultural expenditure at the federal level due to unification – total public expenditure increased nominally but declined in real terms. This negative development ended in 2006/2007 when the cultural expenditure started to rise again slowly in real terms – a development that came to a halt on the regional and local levels, following the 2008/9 world financial crisis. On the other hand, the budget for cultural affairs on the national level rose continuously during the last eight years, running at rates between +3.4% (2007) and +1.5% (2009); the preliminary results for 2010 to 2012 suggest a continuing increasing of this budget – from 2010 to 2012 by 9.7 %, to 1.3 billion EUR. The per capita expenditure increased to 16.35 EUR (according to those preliminary results). In relative terms, public spending on culture by the national level accounted for approximately 0.05 % of the German Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 0.78 % of the total public expenditure in 2012.
In order to provide greater transparency on public spending on culture, some Länder published reports on culture offering statistical data as well as presentations of the development of the cultural sectors through public funding – e.g. Bavaria (1998, 2005 and 2010), North rhine-Westphalia (2008 and since 2010 annual) and Lower Saxony (2011, actually preparing for 2013).