Cultural Policy in a Globalised World

State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Yngve Slettholm, examines the state of current cultural policy in a globalised world.

Yngve Slettholm

As in other areas in our society, cultural life is marked by extensive changes. Not least have globalisation processes influenced the entire cultural area in the last decades and changed the conditions for artistic creation and dissemination.

The range of action for both cultural industries and the arts is becoming more and more international. Expansion and differentiation in the fields of art and culture has taken place. International cooperation, transgression of the traditional boundaries between different forms of expression, and the use of new technology have contributed to professional renewal and a growing diversity of expressions.

Music has always been characterised by international cooperation and exchange across borders. This has no doubt contributed to the vitality that we see in Norwegian music today. During the last decades, new trends and a strong professional community have resulted in a broad range of new ensembles and new arenas. This development is both a condition for and a result of the fact that Norwegian operators are active on the international music scene.

Music is also to a high degree developing through crossovers, not only between “high” and “low”, but also between western and non-western cultures. In the past couple of decades, music from Asia, Africa and Latin America has gained a strong position in Norwegian music life. The Norwegian Concert Institute has played an important role in promoting music from these parts of the world. However, we still have to make an effort to strengthen cultural diversity within the field of music as well as in the cultural sector as such.

Globalisation has also opened a larger market to so-called narrow and experimental expressions of art. Expressions that often have a small domestic public may have a very different market estimation on the international scene. Today, there are a lot of operators working in domains in which the Norwegian community and market is only a part of an international network of orchestras, ensembles, festivals, organisers, record companies and so on. For some operators, commissions abroad are as important as the ones in Norway.

    New media for distribution, dissemination and global marketing have made it easier to make use of the global market potential. In this connection, I would like to put forth IAMIC’s work of connecting their databases. This work will lead to the establishment of one of the world’s most extensive music databases, European Music Navigator. I am happy to see that this database will be presented later during this conference.

    In other words, there is little doubt that globalisation has led to a vitality in the arts area and created a range of new opportunities both for production and dissemination. But globalisation is, of course, not one clearly defined item. Rather, globalisation implies several trends that pull in different directions.

    So far, I have touched the productive aspects of globalisation, the ones that contribute to a wider cultural and aesthetic diversity. But at the same time, there seems to be a general concern that globalisation may lead to standardisation. We do witness a vast transnational spreading of commercial cultural products through mass media and the cultural industries. Thus, there is a clear danger that local and narrow expressions of art with a limited market potential risk to be further marginalised. Some would argue that the trends towards standardisation caused by market mechanisms to a certain extent are counteracted on the local level by the continuous interaction between global trends and local interpretations. And also the other way around: that local and narrow expressions of art are absorbed by and affect the global trends.

    However, we are no doubt here facing one of the major challenges within cultural policy at present. The globalised culture and media industry is growing and is becoming more and more commercialised. At the same time, we see a growing tendency of concentration of power and control over the market in a few, multinational enterprises. And, in a parallel trend, there seems to be the same people owning the music production companies, the distribution networks and the new technology companies.

    Seen from a cultural perspective, I believe that the most fruitful approach first of all would be to make use of the new opportunities. The globalisation processes are hard to reverse through cultural policies. Encouraging the productive sides of globalisation through an active cultural policy is definitely a possible way to go.

    Last autumn, the Government presented a new report on culture to Parliament – Stortinget. The report outlines the main strategies for the public cultural policy in Norway of the next decade. We are very pleased to note that the Parliament has given its approval to the fundamental basis of the report, that culture has a value in its own right. Parliament also recognises that the changes in society will demand a more active cultural policy in the years to come.

    A main objective of the Government’s cultural policy is to prepare the grounds for diversity and quality in the cultural sector. A broad range of creative, performing, documenting, and promoting entities from all parts of the cultural arena is a valuable counterbalance to the trend towards standardisation represented by various commercial forces.

    In a continually more competitive international market an active cultural policy is needed in order to keep and promote cultural and aesthetic diversity. In this situation, it is particularly important to retain public schemes in support of production and dissemination of the parts of the arts field that can not survive on the terms of the market. Artistic quality should be the primary criteria for public support to professional art, and it should not be subordinated to the demands of the commercial market.

    Norway is a small country, Norwegian is a small language, and the inner market of Norway is limited. Many operators are facing a permanent market failure, implying that they must depend on public support. In larger countries and areas of more concentrated population, there will be a range of professions that can survive because the market and the demand for services are large enough. This is different in a country like ours, requiring a greater demand for public support mechanisms. In order to secure cultural and artistic magnitude these support mechanisms must primarily be directed towards expressions and art forms that have a marginal position in mass culture and in the cultural industries.

    Other operators have a market potential that over time can make them less dependent on or completely independent from public support. In these cases, public support must be considered as market incentives; to help the market to function better. In the field of music, this would in the first place regard mechanisms directed towards pop, rock, and in part jazz – this means musical expressions that started within the framework of modern mass culture and the cultural industries. Many ensembles within these genres operate at the margins of the cultural industries, or in niches that the cultural industries do not cover, and therefore also depend on public support.

    However, I would like to underscore that the distinction between market correctives and market incentives in principal does not have to follow the genre distinctions. Even if there is a need for particular actions for particular forms of music, it is at the same time important to ensure that the different subcultures in the field of music can meet. In general, genre distinctions should to a lesser extent be the basis of support mechanisms in the field of music. Expressions of music should be evaluated without regards to genre distinctions, given that quality originates and develops without regards to genre.

    In Norway, the public music policy covers most parts of the production and dissemination chain through different support schemes for composers, performers, concert organisers, publishing and recording. To make full use of the productive dimensions of globalisation and the enlarged range of action for international exchange, it is important that these mechanisms be adapted to the international situation.

    It is crucial that all parts of the cultural field prepare the grounds for and enhance international exchange and cooperation. This means both adding foreign impulses to Norwegian cultural life and promoting a broad spectre of high quality Norwegian art internationally. Within the field of music, Music Information Centre Norway plays an important role in this work through a varied effort in making the qualities of Norwegian musical life visible and accessible to a global market.

    Our support mechanism for phonograms shall promote the knowledge and dissemination of Norwegian quality phonograms. It is also aimed at stimulating a broad production of phonograms with music created, composed and performed by Norwegian artists.

    Every year, the Norwegian Arts Council buys a selection of the year’s phonogram production in 550 copies. The phonograms are distributed to libraries, schools and Norwegian missions and music communities abroad. Hence, the scheme makes the CDs accessible to the Norwegian public, and presents Norwegian music abroad. Music Information Centre Norway plays an important role with its task of informing about the purchased phonograms and distributing them abroad.

    The global market situation implies that there is a need to improve the scheme to include more productions with Norwegian musicians and composers. Strengthening the scheme would make it possible to buy not only more phonograms with Norwegian music, but also with Norwegian performers recorded by foreign recording companies.

    The mass media are vital in disseminating culture. Recently, we had a discussion in the Parliament about the role of our main state-owned public broadcaster, NRK. The minister then stressed that public service broadcasting should not solely aim to reach a large audience. It is important that the more unconventional manifestations of art and culture be clearly reflected in the programming, even in prime time. The Ministry is currently working on specifying NRK’s purpose as a public service broadcaster, in order to change its statutes at the next general assembly. As a broadcaster funded by licence fees, NRK has an obligation to serve the community. In addition to inform and entertain, NRK should be an active participant in Norwegian cultural life, and contribute to ensuring cultural diversity. Not least the radio channels play a central role in promoting Norwegian music. This is why we have introduced a quota of Norwegian music as part of the premise for commercial radio licences. The two commercial nation-wide broadcasters (P4 and Kanal 24) are required to play minimum 35 and 30 percent Norwegian music respectively. NRK’s percentage has to be higher, and that goes for all the channels, both radio and television.

    Norway has made reservations in the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), in order to uphold supportive mechanisms in the cultural policy on the audiovisual sector. During the ongoing revision of this agreement, there will be no change in the Norwegian approach at this point. This view is also shared by the EU in their approach to the negotiations.

    An important tool for promoting creativity and cultural expressions is the protection that creators and artists receive through authors rights and neighbouring rights legislation.

    The Norwegian copyright act provides high protection levels for these rightholders. All the Nordic countries have in place advanced and largely harmonized legislation on copyright, including efficient systems for collective management within certain areas of mass use. We are currently finalizing a proposal to the Parliament for amendments which will bring Norwegian legislation in line with the EU directive on copyright in the information society, as well as enable us to accede to the WIPO treaties of 1996. Amendments include a right of making available protected content by on-demand services also for artists and producers, protection against circumvention of copy protection technology, or the removal of rights management information in digital content files. An important practical proposal for cultural policy will be compensation for legal private copying, especially of music and audiovisual products.

    The politics of copyright and culture have become increasingly global. Borderless communication increases the need for international cooperation on substantive issues. At the same time, substantive international regulation of International Property Rights in a trade instrument such as the WTO challenges the climate for international cooperation, and has led to controversy between regions over the rationale behind strong intellectual property protection. This may be due to the fact that the generic term “intellectual property rights” includes many different aspects, such as authors` rights, neighbouring rights, copyright, patent rights. The highly political debates are often overshadowed by patent issues, that to a large degree are seen as obstacles for the developing countries. For copyright and authors’ rights there is a much greater consensus that it is a good thing also for developing countries. These rights enable local artists to exploit the results of their own creativity through exclusive rights. These rights should be balanced so that the performing artist has an equal set of rights as the producer, reflecting their participation in content production.

    In a globalised world, there is a need to strengthen the cooperation within the field of cultural policy in order to promote cultural diversity. Since 1999, Norway has been a member of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), an informal network of ministers of culture. The INCP provides a forum where ministers meet and exchange views on cultural policy issues of common concern and interest. A major objective of the INCP is to ensure that cultural issues be placed on the international agenda, and to promote international cooperation on cultural policy issues. In particular, we have focused on the issue of cultural diversity.

    The network was set up on the initiative of Canada, as a follow-up to the UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Development in Stockholm in 1998. Today, the number of member countries, from all parts of the world, totals 66. This includes all the Nordic countries.

    In 1999, a Working Group on globalisation and cultural diversity was set up within the framework of the INCP. Norway has been a member of the working group, which has prepared a draft for a legally binding international convention on cultural diversity. The draft has been passed on to UNESCO, as this organisation has now been mandated to prepare an international convention on cultural diversity. In October 2003, the 32nd UNESCO General Conference decided that the protection of the diversity of cultural content and artistic expressions shall be the subject of an international convention.

    A first decisive milestone in the process towards a convention had thus been reached.

    Several international declarations on cultural diversity have already been adopted. The Council of Europe Declaration of 2000 and UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity from 2001 are the best known. However, there is so far no legally binding convention on cultural diversity. A legal vacuum needs to be filled to ensure sustainable diversity.

    There is a risk that governments’ ability to establish and implement national cultural policies may be affected by WTO and other international trade agreements. Within the framework of multilateral free trade, conflicts of interest between schemes in favour of cultural policy and general free trade regulations may arise. In these cases, an international convention on cultural diversity may enable countries to make the necessary cultural policy provisions in order to promote cultural diversity.

    The recognition of cultural goods and services as not being ordinary commodities must be a key principle in an international convention on cultural diversity. However, the logic of a Convention on cultural diversity is not to reduce international trade in cultural goods and services. It is important to communicate that a convention on cultural diversity is not about shutting out the rest of the world, or setting up protectionist barriers. Our concern and perspective is the fundamental role of culture. The goal is to equip governments with an international framework to ensure that a diversity of cultural goods and services, both domestic and foreign, are created and available to their publics. Cultural diversity by definition assumes that there is access to diverse cultural content, both domestic and foreign. Therefore, it will be necessary to ensure the proper articulation between this convention and other international agreements, including the WTO.

    The issue of cultural diversity must not be limited to the mere confrontation of interests among large countries that are the traditional producers of cultural works. It is also important to recognize the particular situation of developing countries, which requires special attention if we wish to build their capacity in the area of cultural development.

    It is now up to UNESCO to take this process forward. The issue is complex. A time table has however, now been set by the Organization. This should allow for a preliminary draft to be submitted to the next General Conference in 2005.

    It is important to keep this issue high on the agenda at national as well as international level. At the Annual Ministerial Meeting of INCP in Croatia, in October 2003, the ministers committed themselves to support UNESCO in every way possible over the next two years. As an individual member state of UNESCO, Norway will of course also participate in the process towards an international UNESCO convention.

    It has been claimed that a convention is an “easy answer” to globalisation; that it would imply control and that freedom of expression would be stifled.
    To me, it is exactly the opposite. Our goal is to promote the diversity of voices, both internationally and in every single country. This is also the major challenge for our cultural policy today.

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