Italy/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate
4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
Four different government coalitions followed one another in recent times, each bringing about changes in cultural policy priorities.
The main priorities of the centre-left coalition in the years 1995-2001 – set out first by Minister Walter Veltroni and then by Minister Giovanna Melandri – have been:
- the strengthening of cultural policy at the core of the government's social and economic action, culminating in 1998 in the creation of a comprehensive ministry for culture: the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities, also responsible for the performing arts;
- the increase in the amount of public cultural expenditure, to be primarily achieved –given budget constraints – through alternative funding sources (an ad hoc lottery for culture, a more efficient use of European structural funds, etc.);
- the development of public-private partnerships in support of cultural activities through fiscal incentives as well as through privatisation and streamlining measures; and
- an increased focus on issues like contemporary creativity and audience development.
During the following centre-right government (2001-2006), Minister Giuliano Urbani and Minister Rocco Buttiglione, besides endorsing the need for a comprehensive ministry for culture and an enhanced role for culture in economic development, also pursued new cultural priorities, some of which were more coherent with a neo-liberal ideological approach:
- the streamlining of the over abundant legislation regulating the different cultural domains by combining them in a few, more comprehensive and exhaustive sectorial laws (this has been the case for the very relevant Heritage Codex ( chapter 5.3.3) as well as for Leg. Decree 28/2004 on Cinema ( chapter 5.3.6), both adopted by Minister Urbani); and
- a much stronger emphasis on the role of the private sector in the cultural field, as well as on measures enabling the transfer to private organisations of the management or of the concession rights – when not the property – of public cultural institutions.
The priorities of Minister Francesco Rutelli during the subsequent centre-left government (2006-2008) were:
- a general rethinking of the existing relationship between economics, culture, art, territory and tourism, in order to better finalise public funding to the cultural field; and
- implementation of fiscal and management strategies aimed at raising additional resources for culture from local governments and from the private sector.
For the centre-right government re-elected in 2008, the key priorities for cultural policies were outlined before the Parliament by Minister Sandro Bondi:
- to safeguard and enhance the Italian heritage and landscape through the implementation of the recently modified Heritage Codex (see chapter 5.3.3);
- to give a strong boost to contemporary arts (visual arts, architecture, music, performing arts and literature);
- to reform legislation on the performing arts and the lyric foundations; and, again
- to foster public-private partnerships in all cultural domains.
The following Minister Giancarlo Galan, in his first speech to the Senate on 13 April 2011 called for bipartisan cooperation to elaborate a "Roosevelt-style plan for Italian Culture". Among his priorities are:
- the need for more investment in the cultural field, by also boosting efficiency and effectiveness in cultural spending in times of financial constraint;
- a renewed emphasis on heritage as the main axis of Italian cultural policy; and
- an acceleration in the reform processes concerning the performing arts, which should also involve a profound rethinking of the existing, inadequate funding criteria.
The priorities, mainly focused on heritage, singled out in his foreword to MiBAC's Notiziario (May 2012), by Lorenzo Ornaghi – the newly appointed minister of Monti's so-called "technical government" (the coalition government substituting the Berlusconi government from November 2011) – can be summed up as follows:
- the protection of heritage, for which the responsibility should continue to stay with the state, on the one hand, and an increased involvement of local authorities and the private sector in its operation, on the other;
- the implementation of the "Great Pompei Project" (see chapter 4.2.2);
- the search for additional funding sources for heritage protection, also through an increased use of financial allocations for economic development and territorial cohesion; and
- the consolidation of the ministry's highly specialised staff structure, within the limits of the present administrative constraints.
Chapter published: 08-08-2012