In recent years, the key developments of the Lithuanian cultural policy are related to the establishment of two cultural policy implementation institutions (Lithuanian Council for Culture and Film Centre) due to the cultural policy system reform in 2012–2013. Although these institutions distribute only a small part of public funds (about 7 and 2 per cent of overall central state funding respectively), they have brought into the cultural policy a new ethos of communication and management based on dialogue, openness and accountability to the public. Both institutions prepare activity reports for the public, publish lists of projects that got and did not get funding, collect and publish statistics, etc.
The aim of the reform of the cultural policy system was its horizontal decentralisation and democratisation by separating functions of policy development and implementation. The new model had to ensure that the Ministry of Culture, which previously was mostly engaged with the distribution and administration of funding, undertakes a more active role of strategic cultural policy development and the newly established institutions take over funding functions. In order to ensure the political independence of the Council for Culture, the Law on the Council for Lithuanian Culture (2012) establishes certain principles for the election of the Council (see chapter 1.1) and its funding. Until 2021, the funding of the Council was carried out through the Culture Support Fund that was comprised of the following: 1) 3 per cent on the income received from the excise duty levied on alcoholic beverages and processed tobacco; 2) 10 per cent on the proceeds received from the lottery and gambling tax; 3) other lawfully acquired resources. This funding regulation increased the Council’s independence since the amount of its finances could not be manipulated. A similar funding regulation is established for the Lithuanian National Broadcasting Company (LRT), which is calculated automatically as a fixed percentage of the state’s tax revenue and cannot be revised by the government every year. The State allocates to LRT 1% of personal income tax and 1.3% of excise duties collected.
In 2020, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania asked the Constitutional Court to clarify whether these forming principles of the Culture Support Fund and budget of LRT do not contradict its constitutional right to propose a budget to the Parliament, taking into account the social and economic situation of the country. In the LRT case, the court stated that this legal regulation protects the institutional and editorial independence of the national broadcaster and is a way to shield it from political pressures. This argument, however, was not applied to the funding of the Lithuanian Council for Culture and in 2021, the Ministry abolished the Culture Support Fund and changed the Law on the Council for Lithuanian Culture (2021) respectively. According to the new edition of the Law, the funds of the Council consist of the funds of the state budget of the Republic of Lithuania intended for financing the programmes implemented by the Council and administering its activities.
The Lithuanian Art Creators Union published a public appeal to the Culture Committee of the Parliament and the Ministry of Culture, arguing against this change as it removes regulatory safeguard that maintains the autonomy of the cultural field. According to the new edition of the Law, the possibilities for the field of culture and art to provide arguments regarding the budget of the Council are rather limited. The Council is not an appropriation manager and negotiations on its entire budget are ongoing in the Ministry. Non-governmental organizations in the field of culture have less opportunity to take part in these negotiations than the state cultural and artistic institutions. The Union have proposed to set up a working group in the Seimas to develop an alternative or improved funding model for the arts involving the community within a year.
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