The Ministry in charge of cultural policies in France is currently called the Ministry of Culture and Communication, also referred here to as the “Ministry of Culture”. A specific Committee was set up in 1993 to work on the history of the Ministry: Comité d’histoire du ministère de la Culture. It is composed of researchers, experts and officers of cultural policies, and organises different events to promote and disseminate historical knowledge on cultural policies. The Committee also produces numerous publications.
The history of cultural policies in France is marked by the central role of the State, long before the installation of the Republic:
- the adoption of French as the national language (1539);
- the promotion and organisation:
- of knowledge and research: Collège de France 1530, Royal Library initated in 1368 and concretely set up from the XVe century, then the National Library (creation of registration of copyright in 1537 and first opening to the public in 1692), Académie française 1634;
- of the visual and performing arts (Comédie-Française 1680, the Louvre Museum 1793), patronage (subsidies and commissions to artists);
- and the gradual creation of administrative structures and funds (creation of the Fine Arts Secretariat in the 19th century and the establishment of a Ministry specifically dedicated to cultural affairs in July 1959).
André Malraux, a renowned intellectual and humanist and a fried of général de Gaulle, was the first Minister of Culture in France. He wrote the decree that outlined the role of the first ministry: “the ministry in charge of cultural affairs has the role of making available capital works from humanity, and initially from France, to the greatest possible number of French people, of ensuring the largest audience for our cultural heritage, and of supporting the creation of the spirit and works of art which enrich it” (Decree n° 59-889, known as the “founding decree“, of 24 July 1959). This decree opened the path for its successors in the areas of heritage protection, contemporary creation, distribution and education, devolution of the administration and regulation of the cultural industries.
This Ministry of Cultural Affairs was constituted from the existing directorates of the Ministry of Education (service des Beaux-Arts) and the Ministry of Industry (the National Film Centre). The new administration’s primary aims were to promote contemporary creation in all artistic disciplines and a broader participation in cultural activities, especially in the areas of theatre, music and heritage. André Malraux wanted to set up an Art Centre (Maison de la Culture) in every French département (France is geographically divided into 96 counties called département), in order to stimulate contemporary artistic creation and disseminate culture on a broad scale. 9 Maisons de la Culture were eventually set up. In order to foster the déconcentration of the State administration, three regional directorates of cultural affairs were set up in 1969 (directions régionales des affaires culturelles).
Jacques Duhamel (1971-1973) carried out an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental crosscutting policy that aimed at integrating culture into society and responded to the emergence in those times of the issue of cultural development. He set up procedures to establish partnership contracts between the government and cultural institutions (television, cinema industry, theatre companies). The Fonds d’intervention culturelle (FIC) was created in order to finance innovative partnerships with other ministries. In the field of visual arts, the 1% system (where 1% of the construction costs of a new public building must be used to commission an art work for that same building) was extended to include all existing public buildings.
While continuing to follow the policy lines initiated by André Malraux and Jacques Duhamel, the following six ministers introduced their own changes. In 1974, Michel Guy created a breakthrough for young artists and contemporary art by signing the first in a series of cultural development agreements with municipalities and regions. In 1977, the Georges Pompidou National Centre for Arts and Culture opened and the Museums Finance Act was adopted in 1978; 1980 was declared the Year of National Heritage. In 1981, the election of the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, launched a new period for cultural policies, carried out by the Minister Jack Lang.
The Ministry’s budget was doubled in 1982 and gradually increased to nearly represent 1% of the State budget: increasing from 2.6 billion francs in 1981 to 13.8 billion in 1993. From the 1980s, the Ministry also showed concern for economic issues and the broadcasting industries.
In the context of the first laws of territorial decentralisation in 1982-83, moves towards déconcentration were stepped up with the completion of a network of regional directorates of cultural affairs (DRAC), which collaborated with the local authorities, some of them being newly created (regional councils, départements councils). Several major training institutions were either restored or established: École nationale supérieure de la création industrielle (ENSCI), Institut national du patrimoine (heritage), the two Conservatoires nationaux supérieurs de musique (Paris and Lyon Music Academies) and the École du Louvre, creation of the Institut du monde arabe, (IMA), of the National Centre for Circus Arts and of different resource centres in several fields (music, theatre, street arts…). Arts education in schools was modernised, new disciplines were taught (theatre, cinema, art history…), and a range of schemes were organised to raise the awareness of children about culture, such as arts projects, school visits to the cinema, heritage projects etc. Over a period of 12 years, more than 8 000 jobs were created in the cultural field. Broadly speaking, this period shows a quantitative shift in cultural policy making, with an unprecedented increase in cultural funding and structures and the widening of the ministry’s scope of activities. Cultural policy gained popularity and recognition, which the Fête de la Musique (first edition in 1981, official creation in 1983) may symbolise.
François Mitterrand also encouraged a series of major construction policy known as thecultural “Grands Travaux“: Arche de la Fraternité-La Défense, the Bastille Opera House, the Grand Louvre, the National Library….
As a result of economic changes and the growth of “home-based” cultural activity, the Ministry began to place more emphasis on the cultural industries (books, records, films, broadcasting) with a view to regulating the market (aid mechanisms for the film industry, price regulations on books, radio broadcasting quotas for French-language music, computer hacking…).
In order to preserve the French linguistic heritage, the law on the use of the French language was adopted in 1994. During the 1990s, the debate on “cultural exception” starts and leads to the international recognition of the necessity to promote and preserve cultural diversity (Unesco Convention in 2005).
The Minister carried out its action in favour of democratisation of culture, based on the promotion of heritage, the development of the performing arts and new technologies. Specific policies were conducted in the disadvantaged districts in city peripheries. The Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy commissioned a report on a “refoundation of cultural policy” (Rigaud Commission). The National Centre of Dance was created.
At the start of the XXI century, the policy follows four main lines:
- cultural diversity;
- equal access through cultural and artistic education;
- State reform and decentralisation of cultural policies; and
- intellectual and artistic property, authors’ rights in the context of digital globalisation.
In the sector of audio-visual communication, the aim is to reinforce the government’s regulatory function and increase high quality production in France without curbing the dynamism of the private sector. From 2000 to 2002 a sub-secretary of State in charge of Heritage and Decentralisation, M. Michel Duffour, is appointed in the Ministry. Conventions of cultural decentralisation (Protocoles de décentralisation culturelle) are set up and the cultural sector is anticipating the new step in the decentralisation process in France, which takes place in 2003-2004.
In May 2002, in the first government of President Jacque Chirac’s second term of office, Jean-Jacques Aillagon was appointed Minister of Culture and Communication. In one of his first interviews, he stated that “The right wing, heedful of modernity, is capable of [implementing] a far-reaching cultural policy”. A law renewing the conditions of cultural patronage, associations and foundations was passed in 2003.
In March 2004, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres became Minister. His term was mainly spent tackling the crisis of “intermittents du spectacle” that started in 2003 in particular during the Avigon Theatre Festival. He also worked on the regulation of access to culture with new technologies. In 2005, 9 National Centres of Street Arts were created to support these emerging artistic practices.
In May 2007, after the election of President Nicolas Sarkozy, Christine Albanel was appointed Minister of Culture. She conducted the modernisation of cultural policies in the context of the national programme of revision of public policies (Révision générale des politiques publiques). The organisational chart of the Ministry was reorganised in four general directorates: a general secretariat and three thematic directorates (direction générale des patrimoines [heritage], direction générale de la création artistique [artistic creation], direction générale des médias et des industries culturelles (media and creative industries). The other main areas of responsibility are: the law to protect authors’ rights on the internet (loi Création et Internet), the reform of public broadcasting and the Entretiens de Valois, a convention between professionals and main stakeholders of the performing arts sector in order to discuss the evolution of this sector. In 2008, during the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), French authorities launched the European Cultural Season, by inviting the 26 EU partners to showcase the best of their heritage and creative talent during the second half of 2008. In 2009, Ms Albanel supervised the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Ministry of Culture.
Frédéric Mitterrand, a renowned writer, scriptwriter and director for television and cinema, became Minister of Culture in 2009. The following year, the programme “Culture pour chacun” (“Culture for each”) was launched in order to foster the cultural participation of every citizen. The previous ministerial priorities were maintained concerning dialogue with the performing arts sector, the protection of authors’ rights on the internet or the challenges of digitalisation of cultural practices and participation: installation of a specific public agency to encourage and control compliance with copyright laws on the internet (called Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet, i.e. the High Authority for Transmission of Creative Works and Copyright Protection on the Internet); a law on fixed pricing for digital books; commissioning of the prospective and forecast report “Culture and Media 2030”; and support to the judicial action of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat national des éditeurs) against Google regarding the rights and conditions of book digitalisation.
In 2012, Aurélié Filippetti was the first Minister of Culture appointed following the election of President François Hollande. In a difficult budgetary context, she decided to give up some large-scale expensive projects that had been programmed during the previous legislature. Her main projects are to foster cultural and artistic education, territorial cultural development and to reconsider the issues of cultural exception in the framework of the digital economy. In 2014, the launch of a negotiation to revise the regime of intermittence led to strikes at different festivals, especially summer festivals like Avignon.
In August 2014, Fleur Pellerin, formerly Minister for SME, Innovation and Digital Economy, became the new Minister of Culture in the newly appointed cabinet conducted by Manuel Valls. In 2016 Audrey Azoulay, Councillor for Culture and Communication of the President of the Republic since 2014, replaces her. Since 2012, the Ministry is involved in the preparation of the Law on freedom of creation, architecture and heritage that is promulgated in July 2016 (Loi no 2016-925 du 7 juillet 2016). This is an ambitious legislative act that concerns the different fields of cultural policies. The objective is to protect and guarantee the freedom of creation and to modernise cultural heritage policies. The law occurred in a specific context: the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of January 2015 against the press magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the multiplication of initiatives from local representatives or associations to try and ban the diffusion of some artistic works. Following other terrorist attacks in November 2015 in a Paris concert hall, an emergency fund is set up to support the performing arts enterprises that faced important decrease of attendance levels. In 2016, social partners come to a new agreement on the specific social security regime for temporary and occasional workers in performing arts and audio-visual industries: the intermittents du spectacle. In September the same year the Government set up a national fund to support durable employment in performing arts, the Fonpeps.
During the last fifty years, local and regional authorities form a complementary pole of the increasing public support to culture. The municipalities, owners of certain cultural facilities such as museums, municipal theatres, libraries and music schools, are now the main providers of government funds for culture. Encouraged by the Ministry of Culture and Communication to draw up their own cultural policies, the municipalities, followed by the départements (county councils) and regions (regional councils), have engaged in local public cultural action to a degree far exceeding the obligations laid down in the devolution laws of 1982, 1983 and 1992.
Since the first agreements on theatrical decentralisation at the end of the 1940s, and on through the cultural development charters and agreements in the 1970s and 1980s, a major part of the territorial cultural policy is based on multi-level agreements and partnerships: between the State departments (inter-ministerial agreements), between State departments and territorial authorities, between the different levels of territorial authorities, between State departments and public cultural agencies and institutions. Thus, French cultural policies are conducted in the framework of territorialised cooperative governance, based on agreements and partnerships (see chapter 1.2.6). In 2015, in a context of budget austerity, the Ministry proposed to territorial authorities to agree on “cultural pacts”, in which the State commits to maintain its level of cultural financing to a territorial authority as long as this authority commits to do the same regarding its own cultural budget. Around forty “cultural pacts” has been signed.
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The French cultural policies model is characterised by the substantial action of public authorities. In addition to the legal and regulatory aspects administrated by the State concerning cultural actors, goods, and activities, national, local and regional governments allocate substantial funds to a range of cultural fields. Specialised public service departments administer this action at the different levels.
Equal access to culture for citizens is constitutional: it is incumbent on the State to ensure that all people are potentially able to participate in cultural life. France recognises that culture is an integral part of overall development, including social and economic development, and culture is considered a key factor in ensuring the quality of life and fulfilment of each and every individual.
Moreover, the State conducts language policy in France: advocacy of French (official language of the Republic) and of French-speaking communities (Francophonie), and protection of the languages of France (regional, non-territorial, and sign language).
One of the main objectives of cultural policies is to correct recognised inequalities in the access to culture and cultural institutions due to geographical, economic and social obstacles impeding cultural participation. These policies aim at extending and diversifying audiences, and fostering the development of the widest possible range of cultural and artistic activities in all cultural fields.
Three main lines structure cultural policies in France:
- knowledge transmission and cultural democratisation, in particular via cultural and artistic education.
A crosscutting sovereign assignment is specifically devoted to the State level: legislate, assess and control the public cultural policies. The State interventions in the sectors of communication, press (pluralism) and broadcasting (public channels) particularly illustrate this assignment.
The legitimacy of public intervention is based on the commonly acknowledged fact that, on the one hand, heritage is considered to be a common property to be shared, protected and promoted and, on the other hand, the support and diffusion of cultural and artistic creativity is considered to be a necessity for the community. In these areas, governmental action intends to prevent and correct the risks inherent in the functioning of the market: the concentration, standardisation and removal of cultural products that are not considered to be ordinary marketable commodities.
Moreover, the government has responsibility for artistic and cultural education and training as it has for general education. This takes place either within the school framework (visual arts, music, specialised training in theatre, in film, in the maintenance of cultural heritage), or by means of specialised schools at national or territorial level (academies, etc.), or by associations and popular education (see chapter 5.1).
The Ministry of Culture and Communication is responsible for the implementation of State-governmental cultural action throughout the French territory. Other ministries participate in specific areas of cultural policy (Foreign Affairs, Education, Research, Tourism for instance). Regional and local authorities are also responsible for the implementation of cultural policies in their particular districts (municipal, intermunicipal, county-départment, regional); cultural action carried out by the various public actors overlaps very often and is thus increasingly co-ordinated or carried out jointly, in a contractual or agreement-based framework.
The Ministry of Culture and Communication undertakes action in two ways: regulatory action (in the context of laws passed by Parliament) and direct action by means of public funds allotted to the Ministry in the context of the national budget.
The Ministry of Culture and Communication is responsible for the implementation and supervision of laws and provisions relating to culture. Legal regulations involve, for example, heritage protection, the duties and the scientific and technical standards of archives and collections, literary and artistic property, artists’ welfare, the institution of taxes and fees for certain cultural sectors (cinema, live entertainment, fixed book price), and obligatory production and diffusion quotas (broadcasting quotas).
These regulations do not necessarily imply the commitment of public funds on the part of the government. On the other hand, they could have substantial financial consequences for local and regional authorities and cultural stakeholders (private television networks, owners of cultural heritage goods, etc.).
Regulatory action by the Ministry of Culture and Communication also includes initiatives aimed at endorsing and “labelling” the quality, professionalism and incorporation of certain cultural and artistic activities, or at declaring them as State-approved (general interest).
One of the most direct actions of the Ministry of Culture and Communication involves the direct management of public cultural institutions (museums, national theatres, schools of higher education,…), the maintenance and development of public cultural, artistic and historical heritage, artistic commissions and construction, the delegation or allocation of grants to institutions and cultural actors as well as to regional and local authorities for their cultural initiatives.
State intervention in the cultural field endeavours to be open to all artistic and cultural genres, forms and aesthetics. Decisions relating to artistic commissions, allowances, the allocation of government grants, heritage protection, and the recruitment of culture specialists, are usually made with advice from consultative bodies that gather independent specialists and experts recognised in the appropriate fields (see chapter 1.2.5).
The Ministry of Culture and Communication does not hold a monopoly on cultural action, which is also, to a large degree, initiated by the local and regional authorities. Moreover, a large part of State-supported cultural activity is organised by private actors (in the same way as numerous associative structures in the cultural sector).
The role of territorial authorities
France has three main levels of territorial authorities: communes (municipalities), départements (counties) and regions. Some other types of territorial authorities have dispensatory status that can have a certain impact on the cultural policies those authorities conduct (Corsica, overseas territories, metropolises).
France’s larger town and city councils have been actively engaged in culture for a long time. Since the 19th century many of them have been administering and funding libraries, museums, theatres and municipal conservatories and subsidising cultural associations and learned societies. Since the 1960s, other much smaller municipalities have also been developing their own – and often ambitious – cultural policies.
The devolution acts of 1982-83 and 2004 have encouraged the cultural actions of the local and regional authorities with the help of the Ministry’s regional directorates for cultural affairs (directions régionales des affaires culturelles, DRAC). These laws also transferred responsibilities: public libraries and archive services have been transferred to the départements, regions are responsible for the regional heritage inventory units since 2004 and some authorities could choose to take responsibility for historical monuments located in their territory. In 2014, according to data from the Ministry of Culture, the property of 65 monuments had been devolved to territorial authorities (over the 176 transferable sites): 43 to communes, 16 to départements and 6 to regions.
Spheres of competence
Between the deconcentration of State departments and devolution, cultural policy is based on prevailing co-operation. While the State government has continued to play a substantial role in the public funding of culture, the contribution of territorial authorities has significantly increased and now represents around 50% of overall funding. If we consider the geographical concentration of State funding in the Greater Paris Region (Île-de-France), which is due to the presence of numerous national heritage sites and many national institutions, we find a higher contribution of territorial authorities to cultural expenses away from the region Île-de-France (up to 80% of overall funding in some Regions).
Territorial authorities can take action in all cultural sectors – heritage conservation and presentation, production and diffusion of performing arts, promotion of books and reading, and arts education. In this regard, since the period 1960-1970, a growing number of territories have elected representatives assigned to cultural affairs and have developed increasingly important cultural departments and agencies. The degree to which the municipalities invest in culture is dependent solely on their political will, except in some domains: public archives, which they are obliged to conserve and make accessible to both researchers and the general public; or the general inventory of cultural heritage. The procedures for cultural intervention are subject to the State regulatory authority.
Agreement-based cooperation (see chapter 1.2.6)
Cooperation between the various public and private cultural actors is organised in the framework of a whole range of multi-level agreement procedures between the State services (inter-ministerial agreements), between State services and territorial authorities, between the different territorial authorities, between governmental departments and cultural agencies and institutions: cultural development agreements, the “Ville et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire”, “Villes-Cinéma” and “Villes-Arts plastiques” agreements, local arts education contracts, together with the cultural sections of the “City Contracts”, the “Major Urban Projects” and the “State-Region Project Contracts”, etc. With the increase in their number and their occasional overlapping, these agreements often prove difficult to handle. One example is the Devolution Act of 2004 aimed at clarifying and rationalising the different interventions in the field of artistic education, but its effective application was mitigated.
At the same time, the creation in 2002 of the legal statute of établissement public de coopération culturelle (“public cultural cooperative institution”, EPCC) acknowledged this state of generalised contractualisation of cultural policy. This statute facilitates the joint action of several authorities, including the State, to manage and finance important cultural institutions.
Since the first agreements that set up “national dramatic centres” [centre dramatiques nationaux] at the end of the 1940s, a number of towns and cities are partners in national institutions or institutions with a national label, and thus endeavour to follow cultural policies initiated by the State government. However, as they are much closer to the realities of their localities and their inhabitants, local and regional authorities are also endeavouring to increase cultural support in their localities by developing readership and arts education programmes, by supporting cultural events (festivals, etc.) and by protecting and developing heritage. They often provide the only support for cultural associations and amateur and emerging cultural and artistic activities.
There are two emerging major trends that are likely to lead to substantial changes in public support for culture in the years to come: the first is the emergence of “inter-municipal co-operation” which will gradually and unavoidably affect the cultural field. Inter-municipal co-operative structures, known as “intercommunalities”, are developing their own cultural policies, showing specific issues and modalities. The second emerging trend is a new step in territorial devolution, within the framework of a reform of territorial authorities that started in 2009. In 2015 the law creates a new form of intercommunal body (around 10 metropolises were created, with special status for Paris, Lyon and Marseille), and in 2016 the regional map modification reduces the number of regions from 27 to 18 (of which 12 mainland regions and Corsica, see chapter 1.2.1). In this context, the State mentioned the possibility to transfer some DRAC (Ministry’s Regional Directorates of Cultural Affairs) responsibilities to Regions and at the end of 2014 the Ministry of Culture and Region Brittany signed an agreement to allow a broader capacity to the Region in the fields of book, cinema and broadcasting policies. Besides, Corsica, which holds a particular and derogatory regional status, has a specific capacity since 2002 in the fields of culture and communication (cultural policy, development of Corsican language and culture).
Cultural policy objectives
Since the creation of the Ministry in 1959, two mainstream and crosscutting objectives have oriented and motivated the cultural policies conducted in France by the different authorities and governments.
On the one hand, the objective of cultural democratisation, which characterises the policy of the Malraux Ministry and aims at widespread access to a conventional offer that is considered to be representative of high culture, of heritage and artistic excellence: opening of Maisons de la Culture in the 1960s, low or free entrance fees to the national cultural institutions, actions to expand the cultural audiences. For instance in 1963 the Greek tragedy The Persians by Aeschylus was broadcasted on public television at peak viewing time. More recently in 2009 the Ministry of Culture granted free entrance to the permanent collections of national museums and national monuments, for those aged under 26 living in the European Union.
On the other hand, from the 1970s-1980s, this approach that could be considered to be restrictive and sometimes elitist, was complemented by the cultural democracy approach, which expands the content and the consideration of expressions and artistic and cultural requests in all their diversity, with no hierarchical approach: widening of the ministry’s scope of activities, support to emerging practices or creative disciplines that could have been previously considered to be “minor art”, like street and circus arts, comics, fashion and decorative arts, jazz, “current or non-classical music” [musiques actuelles].
In this context, cultural development refers to the search for balance between these two regimes of cultural policy, with no elitism or demagogy, in order to reconcile high standards and openness.
The first article of the Decree n° 2012-776 of 24 May 2012, which is adapted from the “founding decree” of July 24th 1959 by André Malraux, states the main assignments and missions of the Minister of Culture and Communication:
- make the major works of humankind accessible to the maximum number of people, with particular emphasis on French works;
- protect and promote all the elements of cultural heritage;
- foster the creation of artistic and intellectual works;
- favour the development of artistic teaching and practices;
- contribute to the development of cultural and artistic education of children and young adults;
- encourage the local cultural initiatives, develop the links between State and territorial cultural policies and participate to the devolution policy conducted by the government;
- help to develop cultural industries, new technologies for creation and diffusion of cultural heritage, and to promote cultural digital contents and services;
- define, coordinate and evaluate the policies for performing and visual arts;
- ensure the worldwide influence of French and French-speaking [francophone] arts and culture; and
- contribute to the external French cultural policy and to the policies for the French cultural institutional network abroad.
Thus, since its creation, one of the essential missions of the Ministry of Culture and Communication has been to encourage access to and participation in both heritage and the works of contemporary creativity. But the evolution of cultural and socio-economic life has had an impact on the evolution of the objectives of cultural policy: for instance in the 2012 decree that sets the remit of the Ministry of Culture, the question of digital cultural contents and services was added. At the same time, despite such technological developments, the political vision remains focused on reaching new audiences for all forms of cultural expression. That is why audience development appears to be one of the first objectives of cultural policy, and all the recent Ministers have stated that cultural and artistic education is one of their priorities.