The first Constitution of the Netherlands (Staatsregeling voor het Bataafsche Volk) came into force in 1798. It included the thought that the government should foster the civilisation, enlightenment and health of its citizens. Enlightenment and civilisation should be ensured by means of culture, arts and education.
The Constitution of 1798 mentioned the freedom of press for the first time. In the current version of the constitution, this is regulated by Article 7:
- No one shall require prior permission to publish thoughts or opinions through the press, without prejudice to the responsibility of every person under the law.
- Rules concerning radio and television shall be laid down by Act of Parliament. There shall be no prior supervision of the content of a radio or television broadcast.
- No one shall be required to submit thoughts or opinions for prior approval in order to disseminate them by means other than those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, without prejudice to the responsibility of every person under the law. The holding of performances open to persons younger than sixteen years of age may be regulated by Act of Parliament in order to protect good morals.
- The preceding paragraphs do not apply to commercial advertising.
In 1983, the cultural aspect was added to Article 22: “The authorities shall promote social and cultural development and leisure activities.”
The Cultural Policy Act (1993) includes the financial contribution of the Dutch government to provide “a wide-ranging and varied cultural offering for all of its citizens and in all parts of the country by funding institutions and establishing policy programmes.” This act is concerned with Article 79 of the constitution, which states:
- Permanent bodies to advise on matters relating to legislation and administration of the State shall be established by or pursuant to Act of Parliament.
- The organisation, composition and powers of such bodies shall be regulated by Act of Parliament.
- Duties in addition to advisory ones may be assigned to such bodies by or pursuant to Act of Parliament.
This act determines crucial aspects of the Dutch cultural policy, such as the government’s obligation to submit a cultural policy plan to parliament every four years. This four-year plan provides sustainable financial support and outlines activities for the forthcoming period, as well as reviewing achievements from the previous period. Furthermore, it regulates the government’s option of issuing subsidies to provinces and municipalities. Since 2009, a group of smaller cultural institutions and companies is no longer part of the basic infrastructure, but is funded by the public cultural funds.