Objectives: The main objectives of cultural policies implemented by any level of the Spanish public administration are the preservation of cultural heritage and the promotion of access to culture. The differences arise in what is considered cultural heritage (tangible versus intangible; of the state versus identities) and which types of cultural manifestations should be promoted and how access should be granted and financed.
If we analyse recent cultural policies in terms of the cultural policy principles defined by the Council of Europe, we see that promotion of national identity — the main vehicle for articulating cultural policy in the regions, particularly in those having separate language environments — has been exacerbated in the last years.
In terms of recognising diversity, the very way the Spanish state is organised territorially has been an admission of the cultural diversity of the country. Protection of diversity has been mainly interpreted by looking internally at the individual traits of the various cultures comprising modern-day Spain. Since 2000, as a result of the dramatic increase in immigration, recognition of another form of cultural diversity beyond national borders was included in the cultural policy agendas, as part of the social integration of immigrant groups.
Support for cultural creativity has been traditionally articulated as an aim of cultural policy along three main axes: statutory protection of intellectual property; the teaching of creative arts; and specific measures to promote the work of creative artists themselves.
Access to culture and participation in cultural life are among the prime objectives of recent Spanish cultural policy. However, generating demand outside the sphere of mass culture turned out to be a complex issue. Equally, the democratisation of culture, understood as the citizens’ right to have their say about how the cultural life of their communities is defined, leaves considerable room for development in the search for a fully rounded Spanish cultural policy.
Main features: Spanish cultural policy has undergone profound and rapid changes since 1977. The cultural model of the democratic period has combined the recognition of cultural pluralism, the determination of the state to foster culture and a massive decentralisation of administrative tools, in accordance with the rules for the territorial government laid down in the Constitution of 1978. This model has also tried to favour an increase in the involvement of private companies and civil society in running the country’s culture. The relevance of one characteristic or another has depended on the political party in office and its relationships with regional governments. For instance, the role of public policies during the last decade has experienced profound changes in recent years, as a result of the economic crisis and of the re-centralising tendencies of the Popular Party’s government.
Traditionally, the decentralised Spanish policy has favoured the adoption of different models for cultural management and for the support and promotion of artistic creation, though much of the funding is ultimately linked to public budgets. Thus, the economic and operational autonomy of the institutions could be somehow limited. Sometimes, the creation of arms-length bodies has been encouraged; sometimes, advisory councils have tried to connect cultural policy with relevant cultural stakeholders.
In this sense, the National Council for Culture and the Arts in Catalonia is a hybrid institution, an arms-length body that was the first instrument of its kind in the Spanish state. It was created by the 6/2008 Act with the main objectives of ensuring the development of cultural activity and collaborating in drawing up both specific cultural policy and policy that supports and promotes artistic and cultural creation. The council was reformed in 2011, and it was given a new structure and configuration that sought to reinforce its supervision and advisory role for public cultural policies, while losing many of its executive functions (11/2011 Act of restructuring of the public sector).
Since 2000, the Community of the Basque Country has an advisory collegial body of participation, cooperation and advice in the field of culture, attached to the relevant department in the field of culture of the Basque government (Decree 27/2008 that modifies the Decree 219/2000). In the same vein, the Andalusian Agency of Cultural Institutions (Act 1/2011 and Decree 103/2011) was created in 2011 by merging some previous arms-length institutions. It is attached to the regional cultural department and has wide functions in the management, programming and promotion of cultural programmes. One year later, the autonomous community of Castile-Leon created the Council for Cultural Policies (Decree 26/2012) as a regional organ of participation, consultation, analysis and coordination in the field of culture, arts and cultural heritage.
1939-1975: The official culture of Francoism combined fervent nationalism with equally fervent Catholicism. Its artistic predilection was for traditional styles. From the 1960s onwards, rigid press and education policies began to soften.
1977-1982: In 1977, the Ministry of Culture was established and by means of international exhibitions, congresses, prizes and appointments, much of the cultural heritage silenced by Francoism was recovered, and the work of exiled artists and intellectuals recognised. The Constitution of 1978 and the charters of regional autonomy set up under its aegis, initiated a period of freedom of the press and artistic expression, combined with greater state activity in disseminating culture and giving full recognition to the cultural and linguistic diversity of Spain.
1982-1996: Different Socialist governments stressed the need for the state to be present in those areas where private initiative was likely to be lacking. In the initial phase, up to 1986, the central goal was to preserve the much-deteriorated historic and artistic heritage, renovate theatres and auditoriums, and subsidise artistic expression. It was found that the political aims and the gradual transfer of responsibilities to the regional authorities required that the Ministry be slimmed down and reorganised.
In a second phase, from 1986 to 1996, the authorities staged a series of events that brought their cultural policies to the foreground of public attention. These were years of exuberant artistic activity and freedom of expression, in which Spanish artists brandished a dizzying array of political and cultural banners while their international colleagues were welcomed to join in. This cultural explosion coincided with, and to a certain extent masked, the lack of real resources. The decentralised structure of government often succeeded in recovering and strengthening regional cultural diversity but did not always bring about a broader participation in cultural events or improve the standards of artistic creation.
1996-2004: Under the liberal-conservative government of the Popular Party, the broad outlines of ministerial action remained the same: protection and dissemination of Spain’s historic heritage; management of the great national museums, archives and libraries, and promotion and dissemination of film, theatre, dance and music. The deregulatory tendency of the Popular Party’s government led to efforts to involve the private sector in major cultural initiatives.
2004-2011: The Socialist Party restructured the departments of the Ministry of Culture on different occasions and made the cultural industries one of its main priorities. The economic crisis also had its effects on culture, resulting in a reorganisation of the Ministry of Culture and austere budgets as a key way of reducing the public deficit.
2011- June 2018: Besides structural changes and cuts in public budgets, culture and education were two of the subjects that caused greater disagreement between the central government (led by the Popular Party), the Autonomous Communities (in particular those with their own language) and the creative sector.
 Prieto de Pedro, J (2004) Cultura, culturas y Constitución. Editorial Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales. Madrid (second edition).