A 5.1 % rise in the national cultural budget is envisaged in 2012.
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. As a result, public cultural expenditure statistics often vary considerably, in some cases by billions of EUR.
EU cultural statistics with yet differing definitions and the very broad UNESCO statistical framework add to these various definitions of cultural statistics. A partial harmonisation was achieved when the Federal Office for Statistics co-operated with statistical offices of some Länder to produce the Cultural Finance Report 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Different standards to collect cultural statistics are also used by German municipal statistical offices, the Standing Conference of the German Länder, the Federal Government and the Federal Statistical Office. This is further complicated by the number of different categories used by EUROSTAT and UNESCO. 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 seven years, running at rates between +3.4% (2007) and +1.5% (2009); in 2012, an increase of 5.1 % is envisaged.
The first region to present a report on cultural support, which is intended to provide greater transparency, was the Land Nordrhein-Westfalen in October 2008 (meanwhile other states followed e.g. Lower Saxony in 2011). According to a report of North Rhine Westphalia, over the last three years, funds for cultural support have been increased by 12.7 million EUR in 2006, 14.3 million EUR in 2007 and 15.3 million EUR in 2008, which corresponds to the promise made by the state government to double the budget for regional culture within the period of this legislative session; however, compared with other regions, this was previously at a very low level.