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Funding for the media has been slashed and the Media Fund is to be dismantled.


In 2011 volunteers represented 73% of the total labour force in museums, 44% in libraries and 63% in pop music venues.


The American practice of buying a position on the board of trustees has been introduced but for now has been restricted to private cultural enterprises.

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Netherlands/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.3 Status and partnerships of public cultural institutions

There is a complex system of subsidies in the cultural sector. The following chapter will explain how the subsidy system works in the following fields: arts and cultural heritage; media and entertainment; and creative industries.

The arts and cultural heritage

Performing arts

The performing arts sector includes music, music theatre, drama and dance. Within these four disciplines, there are many sub-genres, including opera, popular music, musical, ballet and mime. The Performing Arts Fund NL is the most important subsidy source for the performing arts. Since 2017, the Performing Arts Fund provides a multi-annual funding to 84 cultural organisations. Applicants were judged on the following criteria: artistic quality, entrepreneurship, diversity and geographical spread. A fifth criterion applies to festivals and competitions: contribution to the development of the performing arts (see chapter 8.1.2).

The maintenance and management of theatre, music and opera buildings is the responsibility of the local authorities.

Visual arts

The government supports visual arts and cultural heritage through the Mondriaan Fund. The fund aims to encourage innovation and excellence in these fields by supporting outstanding artists, cultural heritage and art organisations and projects, both in the Netherlands and abroad (see chapter 8.1.2). Many of the Mondriaan Fund's grants are aimed at encouraging the cooperation between organisations, artists, mediators, clients and/or other private or public parties. In order to stimulate the private market for art, the Mondriaan Fund has created the Private Art Buyers Scheme [KunstKoop]. Under this scheme, people can buy art on credit (and spread the payment) at over a hundred galleries spread across the Netherlands.

In 2015, the Mondriaan Fund granted EUR 1.4 million to the multiannual programs of 20 museums and other heritage institutions. In 2016, the fund granted EUR 1.9 million to twelve presentation institutions for contemporary art. The total budget for the period 2017-2020 is EUR 24,39 million per year.

Libraries, language and literature

Language and literature are financed through The Dutch Foundation for Literature. This foundation has the task of supporting writers and translators, and of promoting Dutch literature abroad. It invests in the quality and diversity of literature through grants for writers, translators, publishers and festivals, and contributes to the production and distribution of Dutch and Frisian literature in the Netherlands and abroad (see chapter 8.1.2).

In January 2015, a new libraries act was implemented. The government aims to create a centralised comprehensive network of libraries, both physical and digital (see chapter 5.3.4).

For the period 2017-2020, the total budget is EUR 10.15 million per year. Three support organisations for literature and one for libraries are part of the national basic infrastructure. There is also room for supporting the literary magazines. In 2016, Flanders and the Netherlands were the guest countries for the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was of great importance (see chapter 3.4.1).


The central government, the provinces and the municipalities are cooperating in the development of a digital infrastructure for national and local archives. The National Archive is the archive of central government.

Together with the archives of the larger municipalities, the National Archive is working on the development of a so-called "e-depot". The National Archive aims to make digital archives permanently accessible for citizens.

Together with the archives of the larger municipalities, the National Archive is working on the development of a so-called "e-depot". The National Archive aims to make digital archives permanently accessible for citizens.

Cultural heritage

The central government subsidises 48 museums, of which 26 are part of the national basic infrastructure (BIS). The 22 remaining museums funded by central government receive subsidies from other ministries (for example, the Army Museum is subsidised by the Ministry of Defence). In 2012, the museums under the BIS umbrella generated 29% of their income through their own activities. Their private income rates vary widely. In addition to the BIS, a great number of museums is subsidised by local government.

The Cultural Heritage Agency is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of cultural heritage in the Netherlands. The agency, which is part of the Ministry of  Education, Culture and Science, awards grants for monuments and historic buildings, archaeology and cultural landscapes, and implements the Cultural Heritage Act 2016. It takes action whenever the cultural heritage comes under threat (see chapter 4.2.2 and chapter 5.3.3).

The Cultural Heritage Agency is also responsible for The Heritage Monitor (Erfgoedmonitor) which presents substantiated facts and figures about cultural heritage in the Netherlands. The Heritage Monitor provides insights into the development and current position of cultural heritage in the Netherlands. The Monitor regularly measures a fixed set of indicators in the areas of archaeology, historic buildings, historic landscapes, museums and collections, thus highlighting trends and developments over the course of time. It also collects data on immaterial and movable heritage. It provides a general picture of the current position of cultural heritage at the national level. Where possible, data are also supplied for regional levels (province, municipality).

The former Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker, formulated an integral Heritage Act [Erfgoedwet], protecting all kinds of heritage collections at a national level. The Act was installed on July 1st, 2016 and replaced six laws and regulations in the field of cultural heritage.

Media and entertainment


Most of the national budget for film is distributed through the Dutch Film Fund. The fund is responsible for supporting film production nationwide. It focuses on the quality and diversity of feature films, documentaries, shorts, animation and experimental films. Its operations cover participation in development, production and distribution. Furthermore, it supports film-related activities such as festivals, co-production markets and individual training for film professionals. It is also responsible for promoting an enabling environment for the national film industry (see chapter 8.1.2).

At the end of 2013, the government decided to earmark an additional EUR 20 million to improve the competitiveness of the Dutch film industry, and to stimulate foreign filmmakers to move their production to the Netherlands. The Dutch Film Fund is responsible for distributing the additional grants. The share of national films in Dutch cinemas has increased over the years. In 2007, 14% of the films showing in Dutch cinemas were Dutch;  in 2015, 18,8% (Bioscoopmonitor 2015).

For the period 2017-2020, four film festivals and one support organisation for film are part of the national basic infrastructure. The support organisation is the EYE Film Institute, the Dutch centre for film culture and heritage, which is dedicated to developing a vigorous film culture in the Netherlands.

The total budget for the period 2017-2020 amounts EUR 50,18 million per year.

In May 2018, Minister Van Engelshoven has made new agreements with the film industry to promote the production of Dutch films. In exchange for a low VAT rate on cinema tickets, the film distributors and cinema operators will make more money available for the production of Dutch public films.


Media affairs are supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Arie Slob (Christian Democrats) is Minister for the Media (in addition to primary and secondary education, and archives) (see Coalition Agreement, Confidence in the Future and chapter 4). Legislation on media is laid down in the Media Act 2008 (see chapter 5.3.7). The media is not incorporated in the national basic infrastructure and the actual media funds are not law-based. As explained earlier in this document, the main role of the government vis à vis the media is to safeguard pluriformity, accessibility and affordability (see chapter 4.2.6).

In the Netherlands, there are two funds regarding media affairs: the Co-production Fund for  National Public Broadcasting [Co-productiefonds Binnenlandse omroep] and the Dutch Journalism Fund [Stimuleringsfonds voor de journalistiek]. The Media Fund was dismantled by the government on January 1st, 2017. The tasks of the fund were taken over by the Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting (NPO). 

Creative Industries

For the period 2013-2016, a new cultural fund was created: the Creative Industries Fund NL . The term "creative industries" encompasses a broad range of different fields, including design, architecture, urban development, landscape architecture, graphic design, fashion, new media and gaming. The government aims to stimulate the development of the creative industries by making the cluster one of its ten "top sectors" of the "top-sector policy" (see chapter 4.2.3).

Organisations concerning the creative industries have merged to form the New Institute [Het Nieuwe Instituut]. The activities of the New Institute are grounded in the principles of design and innovation. It organises exhibitions, lectures and fellowships, and carries out research and development projects around three multi-annual programmes. The New Institute is also part of the national basic infrastructure for the period 2017-2020. The total budget amounts EUR 11,63 million per year.

Cooperation models and additional forms of financing

Before state funding came into being, the cultural support system in the Netherlands was built around private initiative and social associations. In the second half of the 19th century, many important Dutch museums were initiated, mostly in cooperation with municipalities. The museums were financed and managed by a small, elite group. After World War II, central government intensified policy-making in the field of the arts and culture. From the 1960s on, almost all major institutions received subsidies from the state. But many of them were still managed by private board members. Together with the central government, the board members formed the governance structure of a non-profit  foundation.

Towards the end of the 20th century, these public-private organisation models returned to prominence. In the 1990s, both the central government and the municipalities distanced themselves from museums. The museums were privatised; they became foundations with an autonomous management, separated from the subsidising governments. Due to the economic crisis of 2008, cultural institutions had to devote more energy to obtaining private income. It became a general belief that institutions could show their importance (and hence value) and impact by generating additional private funding.

Private associations and foundations

Next to government subsidies, funding comes from private associations and foundations. Some private foundations, such as the Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation [Prins Bernhard CultuurFonds] and the VandenEnde Foundation, have specific social and cultural aims as part of their statutes. The Prince Bernhard Cultural Foundation is the largest private cultural foundation in the Netherlands. It stimulates the conservation of nature and culture by supporting over 3 500 initiatives, individuals and projects every year. The VandenEnde Foundation was founded in 2001. Its focus is on stimulating cultural entrepreneurship and increasing the interest of young people in culture. It offers scholarships for talented young people, to enable them to further develop their opportunities.

Friends' societies and volunteers

A growing number of subsidised cultural institutions have friends' societies or private support systems. These allied organisations derive their income from membership fees, gifts and legacies. Especially in the museum sector, friends' societies can play an important role. But this kind of support is also important in other sectors. The Royal Concert Hall in Amsterdam has a society with over 20 000 "friends". Friends are important, both for the additional money they bring in and the social support they generate. About 250 000 people are, in one way or another, related to the many museums in the Netherlands (Smithuijsen and Van Woersem 2013, Boekman 97, p 86).

In 2016, about 4% of all Dutch people is a volunteer in the field of culture (Arends et al 2018, Bekkers et al 2017). There is an significant increase of volunteers within the sectors of museums, libraries and performing arts. In the amateur arts sector, volunteers play an important role as well.


Another source of cultural funding is the contribution made by commercial enterprises to cultural institutions or facilities: in other words, sponsorship.

In the 1990s, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science drew up a code for the sponsors of cultural events, called the Culture Sponsor Code [Code Cultuursponsoring]. In this code, various rules for a sponsor relationship are defined and the framework for sponsorship agreements is stipulated. The most important aspect of the code is that, in principle, the sponsor is not allowed to influence the actual content of the activity organised by its cultural public partner. Most large Dutch banks, including ABN AMRO and Rabobank, have their own departments dealing with culture sponsorship.

The American practice of buying a position on the board of trustees has also been introduced in the Netherlands. For the time being however, the practice has been restricted to purely private cultural enterprises – in this case the Museum Beelden aan Zee.

Sponsorship spending in the Netherlands has been decreasing since 2010; total sponsorship spending declined by 8 percent between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, the total spending on sponsorship was EUR 778 million – a 3% decrease compared to 2014. The art and cultural sector was hit hardest with -3.6 percent (Sponsor Monitor 2016).


The government wants the cultural sector to become less dependent on government subsidies and to generate more money from private sources. For this reason, the Ministry  of Education, Culture and Science set up the Cultural Entrepreneurship Programme (2012- 2016). Cultural organisations and producers are supported in their entrepreneurial efforts in the form of advice, coaching and supervision to find alternative funding. The main aim is to reinforce entrepreneurship in the cultural sector among both organisations and makers (see chapter 4.2.9). An important part of this policy is to encourage "giving to culture". The government aims to support donations to the arts and culture with its Gift and Inheritance Tax Act [Geefwet] and donation campaign.

In 2009, the Dutch population gave approximately EUR 4.7 billion to good causes. About 10 percent of that amount, EUR 454 million, went to culture. In 2013, donations increased to nearly EUR 4.4 billion and approximately 281 million went to culture. In 2015, both figures increased: the Dutch population gave EUR 5.7 billion, and EUR 511 million went to culture (see chapter 6.3) (Bekkers et al. 2018).

With the Gift and Inheritance Tax Act [Geefwet], which was implemented in the Netherlands on 1 January 1st, 2012, the government hoped to encourage private individuals to make donations to cultural institutions by offering (additional) income tax benefits. The act also introduces a multiplier of 125 per cent, which applies to donations made to cultural institutions (up to a maximum of EUR 5.000). This means that a larger sum can be deducted and a lower net amount can be paid, while the total donation to the institution stays the same (see chapter 5.1.5 and chapter 6.3). An audit took place in 2016 (see chapter 6.3).


Crowdfunding, the practice of funding a project or artist by raising small amounts of money from a large group of people, mostly via the internet, is gaining ground in the Netherlands. Since the state budget cuts to culture were announced in 2011, a lot of artists and institutions have started using the crowdfunding model to (attempt to) finance their projects. In the Netherlands, with its wide range of digital crowdfunding platforms, the amount of money collected in this way has increased exponentially: from EU 0.5 million in 2010 to EUR 14 million in 2012 and EUR 170 million in 2016, of which EUR 13.8 million went to creative projects (with an average funding of EUR 14.500 per project in 2016). (Source: Douw&Koren 2017)

Investments and loans


In 2006, the first general investment fund for culture was established by the Triodos Bank. Its Culture Fund has the character of an obligations fund: if the interest on the finance market rises, the exchange rate decreases. The Culture Fund is a semi-open-ended fund, meaning that the issuing of shares passes through a bank, and the purchasing of shares is possible via all the Dutch banks. In 2013, the fund volume of the Culture Fund was EUR 103.6 million. There are other investment trusts which invest at least 70% of their capital in artistic and cultural projects.


The platform Culture-Entrepreneurship [Cultuur-Ondernemen] provides loans to artists, creative people and cultural institutions. For credits between EUR 10 000 and 50 000, Culture-Entrepreneurship cooperates with the Triodos Bank. The loan is intended for durable investments, like the financing of musical instruments or the renovation of a building or an atelier. For larger cultural institutions, it is also possible to request a larger credit from the Triodos Bank.

Chapter published: 12-02-2019

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