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In 2016 the new Knowledge Centre for Culture and Media Participation was set up to carry out research on participation of the Flemish population.

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Belgium/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

Flemish Community

Cultural policy objectives are defined in the cultural policy document of the Flemish Minister of Culture for the years 2014-2019.

Minister Gatz formulates five leading principles which will be central in the development of his cultural policy: sustainability, innovation, collaboration, an international perspective and empowerment through lifelong participation. 

The main strategic objectives of his five year policy period are:

  • Developing a sustainable and integrated policy for the arts, through formulating clear priorities for the arts field, against the fragmentation of the budget among (too) many art organisations, putting the artist central and strengthening her socioeconomic position, and developing and integrated policy for both Literature and Film.
  • Stimulating entrepreneurship and the mobilisation of additional financing for cultural organisations, for example by stimulating collaborations with private partners and developing the instrument of the tax-shelter
  • Investing in sustainable cultural infrastructure
  • Strengthening a sustainable international cultural policy, for example by positioning Flanders as the hub for talent and expertise, developing strong bonds with priority partners such as the neighbouring countries or South-Africa and maximizing the dialogue between the Flemish and international policy levels.
  • Stimulating the integration of e-culture and digitalisation into the full cultural practice, through stimulating digital archiving and providing access to cultural content, giving impulses to innovation in production- and distribution models and through facilitating the transition of the local cultural policy level (local libraries and cultural centres into e-inclusion)
  • Stimulating "learning through participation" and "participation through learning" in a superdiverse society, for example by strengthening the partnerships between the educational and cultural sectors and enhancing the cultural assignment of the media (more specifically public broadcasting)
  • Developing a long-term vision on cultural heritage, for example by supporting the development of ‘Collection Flanders’, developing a depot system directed at Flemish level, stimulating international networking for cultural and immaterial heritage and the development of a new Cultural Heritage Decree.
  • Developing a dynamic, accessible and inviting field of socio-cultural work, circus- and amateur arts, by drawing new decrees for the socio-cultural field and circus, detecting and valorising exemplary and innovative practices and organisations in the socio-cultural field, and investing in amateur arts as facilitator of creativity and imagination.
  • Formulating clear and measurable goals and ambitions for the large Flemish Institutions. Stimulating KMSKA and M HKA as facilitators and centres of expertise for the cultural heritage field, updating the list of Institutions.
  • Developing updated and effective policy structures and instruments, by carrying out the internal Flemish State Reform in the field of culture, redefining the relationship between Flemish and local cultural policy, and redefining the role of the intermediary institutions

The Flemish Government has a larger strategic framework in order to design and implement effective means of managing the larger societal changes ahead, the so-called "mega trends" and their potential implications. In March 2016, the Flemish Government published its new strategic outlook for the future, called “Vision 2050: a long term strategy for Flanders”. This forward looking policy document sets out a vision "for an inclusive, open, resilient and internationally connected region that creates prosperity and well-being for its citizens in a smart, innovative and sustainable manner." The Flemish Government formulated seven ‘transition priorities’ for 2050: circular economy, smart living, industry 4.0, lifelong learning and a dynamic professional career, healthcare and welfare, transport and mobility, and energy. At the time of writing (September 2017), the respective administrations and policy makers for culture and ‘health and welfare’ are collectively developing an additional chapter under the heading of ‘living together in 2050’.

Over the past decades, attempts have been made to give cultural policy a scientific basis through externally commissioned studies. In 2016 an agreement was signed with a new Knowledge Centre for Culture- and Media Participation. This consortium of sociology research groups from the universities of Ghent and Brussels will guarantee the continuation of the research on participation of the Flemish population in culture and media, which was previously carried out by the so-called ‘scientific support centres.’ Since 2001, they survey the Flemish population in order to measure evolutions in participation and study their possible explanations (see more information here). Research on youth will be continued through the previously existing Youth Research Platform.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

The French-speaking Community of Belgium’s new government was set up in July 2014 and has issued a Community Policy Statement for the 2014-2019 legislature.

Cultural policies are involved in transverse policies, notably forming part of the prospects for ‘better coexistence’: the promotion of gender equality (implementation of gender mainstreaming), preventing and combatting discrimination in all its forms, fighting all forms of racism, including on the internet and social media, and respect for sexual orientation.

The areas falling under the General Culture Administration are shared by several Ministers: Culture, Youth and Media.


Culture is considered to be a vector for emancipation, strengthening social bonds, and for human and economic development. Cultural development at the territorial level which helps to identify the needs, aspirations and desires of the public is likewise regarded as a major issue.

Moreover, in the context of globalisation, cultural policy will focus on strengthening the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, primarily by undertaking:

  • to preserve culture from the laws of the marketplace alone;
  • to preserve the right to maintain, adopt and implement policies for the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions;
  • to promote and defend a policy on cultural exception; and
  • to promote the French language as well as indigenous languages in the various media.

There is a strong fabric of associations across all artistic and cultural sectors, as well as in the fields of non-formal education and citizenship, which are backed by cultural policies.

The specific measures envisaged include:

  • implementing the association charter, which enshrines complementarity between public action and action by associations; and
  • encouraging the voluntary sector notably through support for the training of volunteers giving up their free time to run associations.

There are four priorities for action in cultural policy:

1.        Supporting creation

  • accompanying artists in the process of creation;
  • drawing up an employment register for all jobs in the artistic sector;
  • supporting the arts office in its vocation of accompanying and providing guidance for artists;
  • fostering meetings between creators, the cultural and creative industries and public or private funding providers;
  • accompanying artists who are active in emerging disciplines;
  • encouraging artists’ residencies by providing them with an appropriate infrastructure; and
  • looking for supplementary funding streams: by supporting the award of short-term, low-interest loans to cultural economy projects via the Creative Industries Investment Fund (St’art) and promoting crowdfunding, micro-credit, patronage or sponsorship.

2.        Reinforcing access to culture

  • access to culture in schools;
  • evaluating the existing mechanisms, such as ‘school culture’ and ‘school shows’;
  • encouraging synergies between schools and the cultural world: museums, libraries, artists, academies, etc., for example by encouraging artists’ residencies in schools;
  • boosting accessibility measures, such as free entry to museums on the first Sunday of the month and developing teaching tools designed to provide cultural and artistic education for school students;
  • urging all cultural operators to include an educational, schools dimension in their cultural or artistic planning;
  • developing training programmes for artists, cultural operators and culture professionals around educational approaches and programmes for artistic and cultural education for teachers and trainee teachers;
  • access to culture for all sectors of the public;
  • placing value on amateur artistic practices;
  • evaluating and adapting mechanisms to promote access to culture;
  • maintaining and focusing policies offering reduced rates for those on low incomes and families;
  • promoting collaborations between cultural operators and social players in terms of cultural mediation; and
  • supporting transverse, structural consultation between all the sectors involved in books and publishing (education, early years, literacy, new technologies, culture).

3.        Ensuring better dissemination and greater appreciation of culture and heritage

  • supporting places disseminating, promoting and raising awareness of artistic disciplines, supporting networks of dissemination centres;
  • developing the network of ‘labelled booksellers’ and giving specific thought to press booksellers;
  • ensuring that the professional cultural operators such as amateur dramatic companies, musical groups, academy projects and so on give space to the dissemination of local initiatives in their planning;
  • urging public broadcasting channels to showcase emerging artists (at prime time);
  • promoting emerging or little-known disciplines (fairground arts, circus, plastic and visual arts, digital arts, street arts); and
  • continuing to digitise heritage and guarantee free access to the various types of archives.

4.        Continuing to optimise cultural governance

  • consultation between various levels of power will be regulated through the creation of a body for cooperation on cultural policy for transverse issues: economy, heritage, employment, tourism, continuing education, etc.
  • it is all about the user: administrative processes are being optimised and harmonised, internet sites developed, electronic forms developed, procedures and decisions made legible, payment deadlines reduced, the principle of legitimate expectations is being applied and a single dossier brought in for intersectoral projects.

Some examples of what these measures will mean in concrete terms:

  • a review is underway into the remit and running of the advisory bodies;
  • a code for cultural affairs is being drafted for the sake of harmonisation and simplification; and
  • the non-merchant employment register is being developed.


Youth is a transverse concern where provision is being made for synergies between the various sectors where the federated entities are responsible, specifically in the fields of culture, social affairs, health and sport.

The following are priorities in terms of youth culture:

  • getting citizenship and democracy embedded at the heart of youth policies;
  • evaluating the decrees governing the processes for recognising and subsidising operators;
  • valuing the training of volunteer leaders;
  • promoting youth and its diversity in the public media;
  • supporting the Youth Council and participation by young people and children in local life; and
  • countering hate speech on the internet and social media.


The media are faced with new issues and challenges:

  • they offer massive potential for new jobs in the cultural and creative economy; they shape cultural identity. There is a crucial need for pluralist, diverse media and high-quality programmes.

The priorities defined include the following:

  • fostering synergies between media, culture, the economy, the digital world and innovation;
  • consolidating the RTBF’s public service missions;
  • revitalising the media landscape, promoting the French-speaking Community of Belgium’s cultural and artistic players and encouraging media partnerships at local level;
  • developing digital cultural and creative enterprises; and
  • developing media education training actions and programmes and training in the use and creation of the new digital platforms.

In the context of technological developments and the globalisation of audio-visual services, the French-speaking Community of Belgium is paying particular attention to adapting its regulatory structures to allow effective regulation in the sector.

German-speaking Community

A main issue is the promotion of the linguistic and cultural characteristics of the German speaking community, which form the basis of its institutional autonomy.The associations working at the basic levels of cultural life, i.e. adult education, youth work, media and folklore have been given an institutional foundation; their dissemination and development are financially supported.

Arts and cultural heritage receive financial support. An important instrument here is the transfer of competencies for cultural and natural heritage (02-02-1994) and archaeological sites (01-01-2000) to the German-speaking Community by the Walloon Region. Buildings and landscapes worth protecting could be classified and modalities for the restorations of protected buildings through public funds were agreed upon. The public Broadcasting and Television Centre of the German-speaking Community operates a TV station since 1999 and opened his own second radio channel in 2002.

A major part of the policy is cooperation with the other Communities in Belgium, neighbouring regions and other EU Member states in all the aforementioned areas.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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