Since Roman times there has been an enduring tendency in Italy to regulate by law virtually every aspect of social and economic life – so much so that, in the context of this short report, a comprehensive overview of Italian legislation in the cultural field is a daunting task at the national level, and an almost impossible one at the regional level.
However, there are very few national general laws concerning the principles, the scope, the funding procedures, the employment status, etc…in the cultural field as a whole. On the other hand, most of these aspects are dealt with rather vertically, in the framework of the numerous sectorial laws.
Therefore, in this chapter we shall confine our analysis to the main national general laws adopted in the field, whereas sectorial laws will be described in the subsequent chapters.
General state cultural legislation in Italy mainly deals with the following aspects:
1. Reallocation of cultural responsibilities among the levels of government.
Chapter 5.1.2 contains more information on this issue. During the 1970s, immediately after the creation of the regions, Leg. Decree 112/1971 was adopted, conferring to the regional governments some limited responsibilities in the cultural field, only dealing with local museums, libraries and archives. Notwithstanding the strong pressure for more cultural empowerment exercised by the regions, the Parliament, while transferring to the regions responsibilities on the environment, did delay the transferring of cultural responsibilities: the only responsibility transferred was the decree dealing with "cultural promotion of local interest" (see Leg. Decree 616/1977). This quite general concept was flexible enough, though, to open the door to a certain amount of regional laws also dealing with heritage and the performing arts. After the rather silent 1980s, the decentralisation process had a new start at the end of the 1990s, with the adoption of Law 59/1997 followed by Leg. Decree 112/1998: the latter actually adopting a much more restricted scope for cultural decentralisation than Law 59 (for more details about content, see chapter 5.1.2). Such legislation was ultimately endorsed and further specified by Constitutional Law 3/2001, and, subsequently, by the Heritage Codex ( chapter 5.3.3): however, after a decade, it has not been fully enforced, yet.
2. Rationalisation and organisation of cultural competencies at the state level.
A reunification and rationalisation of cultural responsibilities in Italy was carried out on behalf of Pres. Decree 805/1975, creating the Ministry for Heritage and Environment (see chapter 1). Years later, Leg. Decree 368/1998 – while extending the Ministry's responsibilities to performing arts and cultural activities, and consequently changing its name to Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities - also defined its new organisational structure, as well as for the first time, the objectives to be pursued by cultural policy (see chapter 3.2). Three subsequent Decrees – Decree 28/2004, Decree 233/2007 and Decree 91/2009, adopted during the decade, some say with much waste of energies, by alternate political majorities - provided the Ministry with alternate organisational structures (see chapter 3.2).
As for other general laws, it should be mentioned that, in 2001, the centre-right government had obtained, through Law 137/2002, Art. 10, a delegation of powers for far reaching revisions and reforms of the cultural field (heritage; cinema; theatre, music, copyright…) through legislative decrees to be adopted within 18 months. However, because of the enormous work involved in these reforms, the deadline expired before such a difficult task could be accomplished. The only two important laws adopted have been the revision and rationalisation of heritage legislation through the Heritage Codex, and the Law for Cinema (see chapter 5.3.3 and chapter 5.3.6 respectively).