In accordance with the Cultural Policy Act (1993), the Dutch government guarantees a financial contribution to a wide and varied range of cultural institutions and programmes. The cultural institutions directly funded by the state government, collectively form the so-called national basic infrastructure (BIS). Traditionally, the composition of the BIS does not alter very much from the one policy period to another. However, some changes did recently occur that are closely linked to ideas that concern the functioning of arts and culture.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, governmental budget cuts and rapid shifts in political views regarding subsidised art and culture, resulted in a strong decrease in the number of institutions that are incorporated in the BIS. In the period 2009-2012, 172 cultural institutions and seven public funds were part of the BIS. In the period 2017-2020, this number fell to 88 cultural institutions and six public funds. This increased a problematic side of the BIS that has been expressed by institutions that are not part of it: the somewhat rigid character that strongly favours the more canonical arts. In its recent series of advice reports that lead up to the next policy period (2021-2024), the Council for Culture has addressed this issue by stating that a wider variety of art forms should be eligible for structural funding by the government. An important part of this argument is that through this, arts and culture would better reflect the Dutch society.
This societal argument has also come into effect in the Library Act (Wet stelsel openbare bibliotheekvoorzieningen) of 2015. This new act stressed the role and responsibility libraries have in making available knowledge and information, development and education, advancement of readership, organising meetings and debate and coming into contact with arts and culture. The effect of this act has been that libraries have been organising a growing amount of courses and events. This all corresponds with direct policy choices by the then Minister of Culture Jet Bussemaker following the presentation of her vision letter Cultuur beweegt: De betekenis van cultuur in een veranderende samenleving (Culture moves: the meaning of culture in a changing society) (see chapter 2.1).
Next to legitimising cultural institutions by stronger links to the societal dimension, the first two Rutte administrations have also strongly emphasised cultural entrepreneurship. In tandem with budget cuts, cultural institutions were faced with strong incentives to increase their corporate income. This resulted in a clear image showing that not every sector is as well-equipped for accessing a large amount of funds next to subsidies. Museums, especially the bigger ones, were particularly successful in this respect, whereas the art platforms for contemporary art and libraries are examples of institutions that generally proved not as successful. Furthermore, 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 (see chapter 3.2).