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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, since 1999, 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 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, also by transferring to private organisations the management of public cultural institutions.

The priorities of Minister Francesco Rutelli during the subsequent short-lived 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
  • the implementation of fiscal strategies aimed at raising additional resources for culture both 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; and
  • again, to foster public-private partnerships in all cultural domains.

Since 2011, the following Minister Giancarlo Galan 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:

  • 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.

The programme outlined in May 2013 by Massimo Bray – Minister of Heritage of the new coalition government led by Enrico Letta – at a joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate's Cultural commissions – focused on the following issues:

  • 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;
  • ·       heritage and landscape protection, to be pursued also through regulations for the containment of land-take and through territorial planning along with the Regions, and through the prevention of seismic risk.

In April 2014, the following guidelines for action were extensively outlined at the Chamber of Deputies by the new Minister Dario Franceschini:

  • to increase Italy's competitiveness in post-industrial societies by emphasising - through what he considers "the country's most relevant economic ministry" - the potential of its historical heritage, its beauty, its artistic talents;
  • to achieve a modernisation and reorganisation of MiBACT, also aimed at combining and integrating the competencies on heritage and cultural activities with the new competencies on tourism;
  • to enhance contemporary art and architecture, also as a means for rejuvenating urban suburbs;
  • to open more space for educational policies, through better coordination with the school and university systems;
  • and, once again, to give a strong boost to new forms of public / private partnership, with a particular focus on individual and corporate donations.

Chapter published: 14-07-2016

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