Italy/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate
4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities
Five 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 of the Heritage 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 unified Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities, also responsible for the performing arts;
- the increase in the amount of public cultural expenditure, to be 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 désétasitation 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, also pursued cultural priorities 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 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 strategies aimed at raising additional resources for culture from local governments and from the private sector.
For Sandro Bondi, Minister of the centre-right government re-elected in 2008, the key priorities for cultural policies have been:
- to safeguard and enhance the Italian heritage and landscape by implementing the recently modified Heritage Codex (see chapter 5.3.3);
- to give a strong boost to contemporary arts;
- 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, appointed in April 2011, called for bipartisan cooperation to boost Italian Culture. Among his priorities were:
- the need for more investment in the cultural field, along with more effectiveness in cultural spending in times of financial constraint;
- a renewed emphasis on heritage as the main axis of Italian cultural policy; and acceleration in the reform processes of the performing arts.
The priorities singled out by Lorenzo Ornaghi, minister of Monti's so-called "technical government" (substituting the Berlusconi government in November 2011) can be summed up as follows:
- heritage protection as a state responsibility, with increased involvement of local authorities and the private sector in its operation;
- the implementation of the "Great Pompei Project" (see chapter 4.2.2);
- the search for additional funding sources, including by an increased use of funds earmarked for economic development and territorial cohesion.
In May 2013, at a joint session of the Chamber of Deputies' and the Senate's Cultural commissions, Massimo Bray – Minister of the Heritage of the new coalition government – outlined an extensive programme, dealing in detail with policies and actions to be carried out in all cultural domains, with a particular focus on heritage (see chapter 4.2.2). Among its more general statements are:
- a new emphasis on "culture as a common good" and on the "cultural rights" of all citizens – including those with an immigrant background – ranging from cultural access to cultural creation / production;
- the promotion of a better coordination of public action in the cultural field at the various levels of government, to be reached by "overcoming old conflicts";
- heritage and landscape protection, the latter to be pursued first and foremost through regulations aimed at the containment of land take and the support to renewable energies, as well as through the improvement of territorial planning and increased cooperation with the Regions;
- the prevention of seismic risk and the restoration of areas struck by earthquakes in Abruzzo and Emilia;
- a strong boost to new forms of public / private partnership, through a reshaping and extension of tax reliefs for donations and sponsorship and for investments in the cinema industry as well as through the institute of "concessions"; and
- the promotion of quality and innovation in contemporary art.
Chapter published: 18-09-2013