Over the past ten years, the strategy of cultural policy-makers has been to deal with more general issues, to fight to establish a new legal framework, to reform cultural institutions and whole sectors – mostly focusing on the conventional area of cultural policy, such as production of arts events or heritage restoration and protection. This means that policy debates about civic participation and citizenship, as well as instruments and forms of policy measures to promote participation in cultural life have not been dealt with much.
However, there are new initiatives related to audience development within cultural institutions and there are more and more voices arguing for wider access to cultural programmes and institutions. Most cultural organisations have activated their websites and started using social networks for building audience communities and new online payment solutions. Many theatres have introduced third-party ticket sale platforms or developed their own. Museums are slowly widening their access to their audiences with increasing number of programmes for children, families and niche audiences. Museum night is a typical example of this trend. Inspired by the success of the Museum night which is run as a civil society initiative, public museums are running their own museum festival: ten days in ten museums, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (muzejisrbije.rs).
Workshops and conferences on audience development, collaboration between museums, theatres and schools have become more common (by KC Grad in 2015, Nova Iskra and Creative Europe Desk in 2017, Museum association of Serbia in 2017 and Baza art in 2018 and many more). Numerous publications followed: a research on festival goers by the Institute for Cultural Development (Jokić, Mrđa, 2014); a collection of good practices in audience development by the Creative Europe Desk (Mihaljinac & Tadić, 2015); a research on audience development efforts of the civil cultural scene by the Association of Independent Arts Scene (Tomka, Dodovski, Vezić, 2016); and special research on the participation of children by Foundation Point (Tomka, Matić, 2017). Finally, Foundation NS2021 European Capital of Culture organized the “Audience in Focus” programme involving training followed by special call for projects aimed at audience development for cultural institutions, which represents the largest policy effort in audience development so far. Although audience development is an undisputed policy direction, there is still a lack of real systemic devotion in analysing, evaluating, awarding and supporting structural changes in cultural participation. Thus, there is much more to be done, especially in the fields of programming for specific groups of audiences, development of educational programmes for children and youth, geographic barriers and participation of rural population as well as opening up to tourism sector.
On the other hand, the attention of public authorities is focused on populist cultural manifestations that are in line with more general populist political communication that prevails in public realm. Those are manifestations that are usually free of charge (Beer fest, Days of beer, Guča trumpet festival) or do not have any artistic relevance (Days of bacon; Days of local hamburgers; Days of fish soup; etc.). Seeing their popularity, the authorities foster new types of outdoor festivals such as the Viminacium fest (an antique theatre festival at the heritage site near Požarevac), a concert of the Belgrade Philharmonic at the Danube and Belgrade opera events at the Belgrade Waterfront (a controversial and huge urban development project). For the Days of local hamburgers in Leskovac, the city authorities spent half million dinars on a public television broadcast while the yearly budget for all cultural projects was nine million.