In the Netherlands, public governance is organised as a three-tier system consisting of a central, provincial and municipal government. In each tier, the parliament, provincial councils or local councils have the right to amend the financial and governmental recommendations of the cabinet, provincial deputies, mayors and aldermen. All three tiers pursue their own cultural policy with their own funding and advisory streams. Collaboratively, they attempt to create an effective cultural environment throughout the country.
The central government has the task of creating conditions in which the other levels of government and the cultural organisations can function best. The cultural policy memorandum that the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science formulates every four years, also includes the distribution of certain subsidies to provinces and municipalities.
In preparing and fixing regulations, laws and cultural policy programmes, the central government takes an important position and often sets the tone. However, it covers only one-third of all expenses related to art and culture and must therefore often deliberate with regional and local governments and motivate them to get behind a shared policy agenda. The main role of central government, through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is to take responsibility for the availability of high quality subsidised arts, cultural institutes and companies. The central government therefore subsidises organisations that host collections or performances of (inter)national importance, such as museums, symphonic orchestras, opera, theatre and dance companies, among others.
The central government is also responsible for the national digital library, national monuments and the national public broadcasting system. Another important task is the drafting of laws concerning cultural and media-related issues. Examples of these laws are the Copyright Act (1912), the Media Act (2008) and the Fixed Book Prices Act (see chapter 4.2 for an overview of the legislation on culture).
Council for Culture
Because it is a basic principle of the Dutch government to remain neutral in assessing arts issues, it leaves decision-making about the arts mainly to various committees of independent experts. The Council for Culture is the most important body to advise the government on the principles and implementation of policy plans.
National basic infrastructure
The cultural institutions and the cultural funds directly supported by the central governmental through the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, are part of the so-called ‘national basic infrastructure’ (BIS). This infrastructure consists of the institutions and funds that are selected to receive subsidy from the central government on a quadrennial basis. The Council for Culture acts as the government’s advisory body with regard to the BIS.
In the latest Recommendations for the national basic infrastructure (Advies culturele basisinfrastructuur 2017-2020), the Council for Culture qualified 88 cultural institutions and six public cultural funds for the current four-year state subsidy. In April 2019, the Council published its recommendationsfor the national basic infrastructure 2021-2024 (Cultuur dichtbij, dicht bij Cultuur), on which the Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven will base her cultural policy memorandum for the coming four year