The French Ministry of Culture and Communication has recently announced its budget for the year 2013 : a €7.363 billions fund will be destined to culture and communication ; €3.55 billions for the cultural field (museums, heritage, archaeology, etc.) and €3.83 billions for the public broadcasting field. This means a 2.3% drop, compared to the total budget of the year 2012, and a 4.3% drop for the cultural budget. This drop is justified, according to Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti, who claims the government’s direct commitment to fight the economical crisis by putting the public finances right. These measures are corresponding to a clear and conscious political choice, complying with François Hollande’s speeches and promises during the 2012 election campaign.
This new budget breaks with the former government, unable, according to the Minister, to do anything except funding great, expensive projects. This previous strategy has endangered the whole cultural structure of France, with no regard to public finances (although the economic crisis was a well-known problem). Aurélie Filippetti describes the program of Sarkozy’s government as a mere accumulation of projects, without any real cultural policy and view. The Minister explains through this new budget, “the point was to prefer quality to quantity”, in order to promote “the diffusion of culture throughout the country”. She is indeed willing to put an end to cultural “parisianism” and to make culture accessible to everyone in France. Her aim is to restore the Ministry’s reputation, considered by the French (according to her) a “spendthrift, shallow ministry, a ministry of parisianism”, by taking part in “the effort for the country’s recovery, and as well the economy and employment’s”. The new budget granted to the Ministry of Culture and Communication will then be used in that direction.
In addition to new investments, the ministry has wished to preserve certain already existing fields, as for instance its support to the DRAC (Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles de l’Île de France, Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs in the Paris region) and to cultural higher education. The funds given to these two fields are therefore increasing. €232.3m will be granted to cultural higher education (meaning a 2.52% increase compared to last year). €774.4m will be granted to the DRAC. Though the budget is decreasing compared to the year 2012 – the former government had granted €814m – it remains considerable, considering France is entering a time of austerity. Aurélie Filippetti emphasizes the necessity to put French youth at the centre of all cultural action. It is primordial to get rid of the idea of cultural democratisation being a failure, and allow at last culture to become accessible for all. Artistic and cultural education must not remain a discussion topic, it has to become a reality. €33.2m will be granted to education (meaning an 8% increase), and the Ministry promised to invest €43m by 2016. The aim is to allow all children in France to have access to artistic courses at school. Improvement of living conditions for the students and research reinforcement in cultural higher education are also current burning issues. Indeed, the funding of Architecture and Art schools in the various regions has been insufficient for many years. The government also promised to increase by 10.8% social scholarships. As a proof of its attachment to the youth, the Ministry will not withdraw the promise of former Minister Frédéric Mitterrand to give free access to all public museums to young people between 18 and 26. However, Aurélie Filippetti precised the former government had not foreseen the loss this museum gratuity would inevitably bring. The consequences of such an initiative must indeed be very well managed, in order not to damage public finances. The Ministry of Culture will also focus on electronic cultural contents, by questioning cultural instruments, more adapted to our times, where technology is becoming everything. Aurélie Filippetti, as she says, wants to make culture accessible for all. These new technologies have to be regulated as well, by supporting the book, cinema and music businesses, which have been damaged these last years by the spread of new technologies. A debate must be led on how to assure the book business a future, and maintain dispositions when it comes to music. However, Aurélie Filippetti did not judge appropriate to pay out €12m each year only to “send some emails”. The budget of the Hadopi (High authority for the diffusion of works and copyright protection on the Internet) was thus reduced by a third, and is now only reaching €8m. The very viability of this law is being questioned. François Hollande gave Pierre Lescure (former director of Canal+) the charge of leading a consultation mission, in order to discuss the Hadopi Law’s efficiency, and to find ways of financing electronic contents, in order to develop a legal downloading offer. The press will be granted a €516m fund, in order to help its modernisation.
The major part of this new cultural budget, or at least the most controversial and clearly different form the last government’s approach, is the fund granted to the heritage field. The €322m fund granted to historical monuments represents a €54m drop compared to the year 2012 (the last government had granted €376m). The whole heritage field is damaged by a 9.8% drop : from an over €860m budget to a €776m budget. This considerable drop is explained by the abandonment of great heritage projects. The list of the abandoned, or supposedly in break, projects is a long one. The House of French History, whose ideology was judged ambiguous, was expected to open in 2015, as promised by the former government, but in the end will not open at all. In its place, the Ministry is planning to establish a network of French History museums on the Internet. The project of a Photo Museum at the Maison de Nevers in Paris has been interrupted just the same, though Frédéric Mitterrand was planning its opening in 2014, at the centre of the French capital, in a 650 sq m space. The Store and Restoration Centre in Cergy is also a victim of budgetary effort. Initially designed to protect the works belonging to Parisian museums, threatened by the forthcoming Seine flood, and to become a new research and restoration centre for the Louvre, it was described as a “heritage non-emergency” and judged far too expensive. The Music National Centre, following the example of the Cinema National Centre, long awaited by the musical field players and promised by President Hollande during the election campaign, as well as Lascaux 4, a complete replica of the famous caves, expected for 2015, have both been cancelled for they needed too much funds : €50m – the State was supposed to pay only €12m for the caves, the Dordogne region being indeed the major sponsor of the project. The Comédie Française room at the Opéra Bastille has been abandoned, and Monumenta 2013 – a yearly event, taking place in the Grand Palais, and where an artist is invited to exhibit one monumental work – will also probably be cancelled, for financial constraint. The Villa Medicis in Clichy-Montfermeil, one of Mitterrand’s only projects not abandoned by Filippetti, will however be revised. Only four projects are being maintained : the new National Archive Centre in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, the European and Mediterranean Civilisations Museum in Marseilles, the reopening and extension of the Picasso Museum, and the funding of the Paris Philarmonic. €12m and 60 posts are planned for the Picasso Museum alone. The ministry estimates creative recovery will serve productive recovery. It has then no intention of abandoning the restoration and care of historical museums, and will carry on funding archaeology in the various regions of France. The economic weight of culture cannot be neglected. Museums must be established in historical places and buildings. In 2010, the cultural field represented 157,000 companies, employing 700,000 persons, meaning €28.7 billions in added value (2.8% of GDP). Culture is essential to a country, especially in times of crisis.
Aurélie Filippetti is also willing to accompany and guide cultural development – a founding mission of the Ministry of Culture which must be revived. A bill on the orientation of creation will be proposed at the Assemblée Nationale. Creation must be considered a means of development for our society. Although the €385.8m fund in favour of plastic arts and performing arts is slightly increasing (€5.5m), the total budget dedicated to creation will decrease by 1.57% : €775m, against €787m in 2012. In this perspective of promoting and encouraging culture in France, the ministry planned for 2013 various fiscal operations, including the return to a 5.5% VAT for the books, and performing arts tickets. It is notable Culture – as well as Overseas department and territories – is one of the only fields allowed to keep its tax exemptions, which have been suppressed anywhere else. The two survivors of President Hollande’s policy are being SOFICA, allowing tax deduction for those who invest in films, and the Malraux plan, dealing with the renovation of registered monuments belonging to private individuals. 6,780 households benefited from the first, and 5,600 from the second, in 2010. These two tax exemptions are the most important of 19 cultural tax exemptions, costing €125m to the State, according to BFMTV. They have been maintained, though in 2011 most of them have been judged useless by the General Inspection of Finances.
The Ministry of Aurélie Filippetti has thus chosen an action plan radically different from that of the previous government, and her predecessor Frédéric Miterrand. It is intended as the end of great, expensive, Parisian cultural projects, in order to favour the democratisation of culture throughout France. Financial support to artistic creation and permanence of historical sites are also being emphasized, for culture appears as a major means of economic recovery in the country. When it comes to budget drops (– 36.99% for the broadcasting industry, for instance), the Minister claims she is willing to focus on the essential and do everything in her power to defend French culture in these times of crisis. She then does not balk at criticising some of the last government’s initiatives, whose consequences have not been foreseen. For instance, she mentioned on 3 October 2012 on Europe 1 the removal of advertisement from public channels.