Culture, the big loser of the next European Commission

Culture portfolio is losing departments as well as prestige and importance.

The current Commission made a lot of effort to impose a coordinated approach to the cultural and creative industries through the merger of the Culture and Media programmes into “Creative Europe”, forcing traditional cultural sectors such as dance, theaters and classical music to live under the same roof as audiovisual creators and accept that the audiovisual sector is cultural too. This was advertised as a great achievement by the existing Commission, after years of separate programmes and activities.

The proposed re-organisation of the next Commission takes us back to the previous arrangements when Mrs Reding was Commissioner for the Information Society and Media (2005-09), with the Media programme and audiovisual policy (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in DG Information Society and Media (since renamed CNECT), fully separate from any cultural dimension.

This will shift audiovisual away from culture again, both in practice and in terms of the logic it represents. Between a cultural and digital approach, the latter was chosen and this will have consequences for the audiovisual sector, in particular in copyright terms. The cultural dimension of many copyright issues might be diluted. It will also break the coordinated approach to the cultural and creative industries.

The move is not only questionable for the interests of the audiovisual sector, but it is also a bad signal for the prestige of the cultural portfolio. Taking into account the limited power of the EU in culture, we have been used to smaller countries such as Luxembourg, Slovakia or Cyprus managing the portfolio. This shows that it is not a coveted portfolio by the biggest and most influential countries.

Today a step further has been made to devalue the portfolio: it has been attributed to a politician who was part of a government who conducted policies that run contrary to freedom of expression, media pluralism and cultural diversity. The European Parliament will surely give him a rough ride next week at his hearing, but it is unlikely that it will oppose his nomination as any other Hungarian candidate would come from the same government…

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