3.2 Overall description of the system
In Italy, four levels of government – state, regions, provinces and municipalities – share responsibilities in the cultural field (see chapter 3.1). Although important changes in the governance structure of culture are under way (see chapter 5.1.2), for the time being in the ordinary regions the most important administrative and legislative functions still lie with the state, which until recently has also been responsible for the allocation of half, or more, of the total public expenditure for culture (see chapter 6.2.2).
At the national level, the administrative functions in the cultural sector are presently carried out by 4 ministries (see Chart 1).
The Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities
Since 2000 (see chapter 1), the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities (MiBAC) has been entrusted with the full range of core cultural functions: heritage, museums, libraries and archives, visual arts, performing arts and cinema, cultural institutions, copyright, with the only exception being communications (radio television and the press).
In 2009, for the fourth time in a decade (Decree 91), the Ministry's organisational structure – which had already been substantially modified by Decree 28/2004 and Decree 233/2007 – underwent significant changes once again (see Chart 2). According to Decree 91/2009, while the coordination of ministerial functions is still entrusted to a Secretary General, the General Directions have been reduced from nine to eight, with new denominations and a partial reshaping of their responsibilities (see Chart 2). In particular, the DG for Innovation has also been entrusted with responsibility for Budgeting and Planning; the DG for Landscape, Contemporary Architecture and Arts has been abolished and its competences amalgamated with the competences on Historic, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Goods in the new DG for Landscape, Fine Arts, Contemporary Art and Architecture; whereas a new DG for the Enhancement of Cultural Heritage has been created. The latter DG is aimed at better integrating the traditional preservation functions of this Ministry, with a new boost to managerial, promotional and communication functions pertaining to heritage, in order to encourage wider participation of Italian citizens in arts and culture, as well as to enhance Italy's image abroad.
The eight DGs continue to be technically supported by seven high level scientific bodies, the Istituti centrali (for arts and books restoration and cataloguing, for archives, demo-ethno anthropological and audiovisual goods, etc.), which are relatively autonomous. Furthermore, in exercising its functions, the Ministry is assisted by two widely representative advisory bodies: the High Council for Heritage and Landscape and the "Consulta" for the Performing Arts.
The peripheral ministerial structure of MiBAC is provided for, in 17 out of 20 regions (see below), by Regional Directions for Cultural Goods and Landscape – which, unlike the French DRAC, are only responsible for heritage matters – and by the local Soprintendenze. These are techno-scientific structures active in the following fields: archaeology; architecture and landscape; fine arts, museums and ethno-anthropology; archives.
The Prime Minister's Office
The responsibilities for the allocation of financial support to the press any for the conventions related to RAI (the state agency for radio and television, for providing additional public services - broadcasting abroad, etc…) are exercised by the Undersecretary of State through the Department for Information and Publishing of the Prime Minister's Office, headed by an Undersecretary of State for Information, and Publishing
The Ministry for Economic Development, Infrastructure and Transportation
After the abolition, in 2008, of the Ministry for Communications - responsible for media and ICT regulatory functions and for financial support to local radio and television networks - its Department for Communications was entrusted to a Vice-minister for Communications, attached to the Ministry for Economic Development. In view of a reduction in numbers of ministries aimed at a rationalisation of public expenditure, the Vice-Minister was abolished by the new, wider coalition government headed by Mario Monti (a prominent economist entrusted with the mission of helping Italy out of a perilous economic situation), which took office in November 2011. The functions of the previous Vice-Minister are presently exercised by an Undersecretary for Communication, always in the framework of the Ministry for Economic Development, Infrastructure and Transportation. Its regulatory functions are still carried out jointly with AGCOM (the Authority for Guarantees in Communications: see chapter 5.3.7).
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs
The Ministry's responsibilities for international cultural cooperation (exercised in cooperation with the Ministry for Heritage) are mostly entrusted to the Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language, although other DGs are also involved (see chapter 3.4.1).
The Ministry for Education
Through its DG for Higher Arts, Music and Dance Education, the Ministry is responsible for higher arts education, which is provided in its national Fine Art Academies, in the National Drama Academy and the National Dance Academy, and in the music conservatories (see chapter 8.3.1). It also runs several other educational institutes providing diplomas in artistic and musical training.
State legislative functions in the cultural field lie with the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and are notably exercised through their Cultural Commissions. The yearly adoption of the Budget Law also allows the Parliament to play a relevant role in the funding system, as the Parliamentary debates on this law often produce heated discussions on the pros and cons of public financing of culture. These debates can lead, on one hand, to the integration of statutory cultural budgets with additional funding from other sources (see chapter 5.1.3) - e.g. with lottery money (Budget Law for 1997), or with the 3% of capital investment in infrastructure (Budget Law for 2004) - on the other hand, more and more often in recent times, to cuts in budget line items and / or to austerity measures. This has been particularly the case with the budget law for 2011, the very controversial Law for Financial Stability 220/2010 (see chapter 4.2.1 and chapter 4.3).
The twenty Italian Regions – all endowed with legislative powers and ad hoc administrative structures in the cultural sector (regional departments for culture / "assessorati regionali alla cultura", in some cases associated with other domains like education and tourism) – are split into two groups (see chapter 3.1, chart 3):
Official representation of regional interests – in cultural, as in any other matter – is entrusted to the State-Regions Conference. Within this framework, the heads of the regional departments for culture regularly meet to discuss issues of common interest in the framework of two special coordination committees, the Interregional committee for cultural goods and the Interregional committee for the performing arts, also acting as lobbying organisations, pursuing institutional reforms towards a full implementation of a more federal governance structure in the cultural field (see chapter 5.1.2).
The 107 Italian Provinces are the level of government least involved in cultural policy (their average expenditure for culture is ten times less than the average amount of municipal expenditure: see chapter 6.2.2). The only exception to the rule are the two rich Autonomous Provinces of Trento and Bolzano, which Regione Trentino - Alto Adige has entrusted with its own cultural competencies devolved by the state (including direct responsibility for heritage), as well as with the connected substantial financial resources.
Through their ad hoc departments for culture / assessorati provinciali alla cultura, the provinces are responsible for their own cultural institutions – mainly libraries and museums – often acting as a coordinating system for municipal public libraries as well. Moreover some of the regions entrust provinces, by law, with the role of intermediate bodies for the allocation of regional funds to the municipalities.
It should be mentioned, though, that an amendment to our Constitution aimed at the abolition of provinces and at a reallocation of their functions to the other three levels of government, is presently considered among the measures for downgrading public expenditure with a view to reducing Italy's huge deficit.
The 8 101 municipalities are undoubtedly, after the state, the most prominent public actors on the cultural scene in Italy, so much so that – notwithstanding the recent, severe cuts in the state's financial transfers - their ratio on public cultural expenditure is constantly growing (see chapter 6.2.2).
Through their municipal departments for culture / "assessorati comunali alla cultura", they play a paramount role in the direct and indirect (see chapter 7.3) management of municipal cultural institutions: museums and sites, archives, libraries, theatres, multifunctional cultural centres, etc.
Italian municipalities are also investing highly in the restoration and maintenance of their historic assets, albeit under the supervision of the Ministry, and in building cultural premises, with special attention given, in recent years, to capital investment in contemporary art museums and performing arts centres (see for instance the Three Halls Auditorium by Renzo Piano and the new MACRO - Museo Arte Contemporanea in Rome, the GAM in Turin, the MART in Rovereto, the just opened Museo del Novecento in Milan, etc….).
Municipalities also promote and support a wide range of cultural activities, actively contributing to the rich national supply of art exhibitions, performing arts festivals, literature festivals, street events, White Nights (Notti Bianche), cultural minorities' celebrations, etc.