The new government has rationalised by strengthening the position of the state in cultural matters.
2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model
It would be difficult to place Hungarian cultural policy into any one of the existing "models". If anything, the Hungarian cultural policy can be described as eclectic. Similar to other countries in the region, Hungarian cultural policy has inherited two complementary features, which can be labelled as plebeian and aristocratic. Historically, culture has had the social function, or rather mission, of empowering the lower classes. This, for example, is reflected by the significant share of socio-cultural programmes and institutions in the various cultural budgets, especially at the local levels. At the same time, determined efforts serve the achievement of cultural excellence, often in the spirit of adding to the pride of the nation.
After the regime change, (1989/90) decentralisation and the arm's length principle were important slogans. The objective conditions for the former have been set by creating nearly 3 200 local – especially municipal – self-governments in 1990, and the relative weight of local governments in public financing of culture is constantly emerging; however, both in the eyes and expectations of the public, and in actual practice, national cultural policy is fairly centralised. The member of the cabinet in charge of culture, currently the Minister of Human Resources, is supposed to bear primary responsibility for Hungarian culture (see chapter 3.2 for further details). The running of major cultural institutions is considered to be a state obligation. Although the National Cultural Fund was established in 1993 as an arm's length agency and has been acting in this capacity since then, its strategic role is usually underestimated.
Furthermore, Hungarian cultural policy is characterised by pragmatism, in which there is an absence of basic official documents. The orientation of cultural policies and practices are rarely guided by high level statements, legal acts, strategic plans or theoretical documents. The previous government made efforts to change this characteristic by composing two draft middle-term strategies, but both were shelved after a change of minister. The place of overarching strategies has been taken by legislation in certain cultural domains: film and the performing arts. As a new phenomenon, however, in 2012 medium term strategies have been disclosed by all nine sub-boards of the National Cultural Fund following that of the main Board.
A few areas had found their way into the National Strategic Reference Framework for the EU Structural Funds (initially called the New Hungary Development Plan), which required some kind of strategic planning of rationalisation and modernisation of libraries, museums and houses of culture (socio-cultural activities), as well as of the place of culture in urban development and regeneration.
The main underlining aspect of the developments that have taken place after the landslide victory of Fidesz has been rationalisation by strengthening the position of the state. A current main feature is the concentration of decision-making: important single cultural issues are decided ad hoc by high level functionaries. Some examples are the appointment of a governmental commissioner for the National Opera by the prime minister (overwriting the result of the call administered by the culture ministry); an extraordinary subsidy to a once brilliant veteran dancer's group by the prime minister; the personal choice of a little known private gallery to run a large scale art exhibition in Beijing by the (former) state secretary; and the discretion of the mayor of Budapest to appoint theatre directors, which led to the controversial case of Új Színház (New Theatre), now led in the spirit of the radical right.