All 5 entries tagged Cultural Policy
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January 27, 2009
Buying Titian for the Nation: Diana and Actaeon
The sale of Diana and Actaeon by Titian for £50 million is being negotiated with the Duke of Sutherland Here the painting is at the National Gallery in London being shown for 4 weeks as a part of the fund raising exercise. The visit was later extended as it was so successful.
Late August 2008 the Duke of Sutherland declared to the National Gallery of Scotland that he wished to sell Diana and Actaeon as well as another Titian Diana and Callisto at a later date. The Duke of Sutherland was prepared to accept £50 million for each of them. It is likely that they could fetch three times the amount on the open market. now if this sounds like a financial bargain for the nation one must remember that the tax payable on an open market sale would run into tns of millions of pounds.
As argued elsewhere the financial concerns should be set to one side, the key issue here is the dvelopment of cultural citizenship within the nation which requires high quality cultural products and services in order to achive this. Clearly the opportunity to acquire some 'Old Masters' by a canonical painter is extremely rare. The reason the Damien Hirsts can command such high prices is because there is a shortage of older work available for collectors. Any painting like this must be considered as an investment in lots of different ways. It is an investment in education for a start so that spurious argument about spending the money on schools is vitiated.
Having high quality art by canonical artists gnerates long-term wealth creation through tourism as anybody going around the main London galleries could hardly fail to notice. These visitors create a lot of tax as well as create a lot of employment. Nevertheless there are a lot of retrograde attitudes out there with many coming from those who ought to know better:
"Very few people will ever have heard of Titian, many will have thought he was an Italian football player. What is the point of wasting this money in this way?"(Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Davidson, the member for Glasgow South West)
Davidson's comment is both patronising and at the same time a strong indictment of the educational system!
Diana and Actaeon by Titian
The Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery Complex
The Scottish National Gallery
At time of writing it sems that the deal is going through there are just some loose ends to be tied up so fingers crossed! This acquisition can only be of long-term benefit to the nations and their citizens.
Scottish Executive gives £17.5 million towards Titian. The Independent
July 11, 2008
Cultural Citizenship and The Importance of the Media
Citizenship is something which has been under development since at least the American Revolution. For a considerable period of time notions of citizenship were based upon concepts and a history written by T. H. Marshall however this model has proved to be unsatisfactory in many ways and new concepts such as cultural citizenship and green or ecological citizenship are now emerging in response to changing societies.
T. H. Marshall's Theory of Citizenship
T. H. Marshall wrote about the development of citiizenship in Europe. He argued that there were theree aspects of citizenship which had developed since the time of the French Revolution.
In the first instance there was citizenship formed around civil and economic rights. These were comprised out of the rights to trade, property rights and rights to a fair trial. Marshall identifies these as laregly developing during the course of the 18th century.
These were significantly developed during the 19th century and comprised of the rights to free association and the right to vote in democratically held elections. These 'rights' were of course fought for hard and it should be remembered that even in the UK a full one person one vote system wasn't in operation until the mid 1970s as there had been a property vote in Northern Ireland for the Stormont regional form of government.
The British welfare state founded in 1945 wished to eradicate the five great social evils of poverty, illness, homelessness, ignorance and lack of work.
- Social citenship has become rooted around these areas and in the UK institutions were established to deal with these issues:
- The National Health Service (NHS)
- A standardised public education system providing education for all up until 15 (later to become 16)
- The creation of a mass council housing and the eradication of slums
- A social insurance system which provided some income for those made unemployed and also one which provided a system of universal state provided pensions.
There are issues with T. H Marshall's approach. Certainly the developments in these areas of citizenship haven't been a smooth progression and were fought for hard politically.
Cultural Citizenship & The Media
Cultural citizenship deals with the aspects of life which create a sense of being and identity within an individual and groups of individuals. This sense of social being is what is decribed as social ontology. This symbolic aspect of society is very much related to citizenship and is culturally embedded:
notions of cultural citizenship point to the importance of the symbolic
dimension of community. Cultural citizenship is concerned with ‘the degree of
self esteem accorded to his or her manner of self-realisation within a society’s
inherited cultural horizon’ (Honneth 1995:134). (My emphasis. Stevenson N: What is Safe? Cultural Citizenship, Representation and Risk)
What is represented in all media forms is therefore an essential part of citizenship which through combining all aspects of citizenship means that every individual is embedded in a mutually constructed system of rights and responsibilities. A society progresses so the elements within a concept such as citizenship deepen and change.
The media is now so fundamental to creating and communicating ideas, representations and senses of communities both thick and thin and the institutions which themselves may be thick or thin. With the development of a variety of web based tools such as blogs which allow for anybody with access to a computer and the internet to publish the creation of a rich electronically based public space has now become a reality which can keep developing. This can provide us with both material and symbolic needs in which physical needs (food & shelter) interact with and are a part of cultural and social needs expressed through the symbolic which is a crucial aspect of what the beingness of humans is. Stevenson notes against much postmodernist thinking:
...that notions of cultural difference are not incompatible with with the more normative emphasis of a theory of human needs. (Stevenson 1995 p 197)
The social theorist Nancy Fraser has argued that cultural recognition in terms of identity and representation, whether that be by ethnicity, gender etc must be accompanied by wealth redistribution if it is to be a meaningful right. If people are poverty stricken then to have abstract rights of representation is largely meaningless.
Social theorists are trying to arrive at a formulation which sees representation and the symbolic world as an important area for the development of individuals as citizens for the various aspects of media are the key platforms and opportunities for representation. The social aspects of citizenship such as education are tied into cultural citizenship information streams adn opportunities for interactive representation. This means that media content and control is far too important to the well-being of advanced societies to allow it to becoem commercialised. Without a good media system people would lack, information, education and representation.
Stevenson (1995 p 198) for example has identified four different kinds of human need that have a relationship between culture and communication:
- The need for knowledge about the operation of expert cultures
- The need for an understanding of the desires, demands and need interpretations of others who are distant in time and space
- The need to understand ourselves as a social community
- The need for aesthetically and non-instrumentally defined cultural experiences
It seems to me that theses are the fundamentals underlying a public service broadcasting system. Theses are the reasons why everybody who has any sense of citizenship must rally behind the BBC and its licence fee as the full digital age dawns. Any compromise inevitably betrays the weakest in society by throwing to the slick talking media dogs whatever platform they are pushing. Can we improve the BBC? Of course but lts do that from the strong base that has evolved so far.
Oxford University Synopsis. History of Welfare State
January 27, 2008
BBC: Moving to a Multicasting Environment and Creating a Vibrant Digital Public Sphere for the 21st Century
Sir Michael Lyons: Chair of the BBC Trust
The best and bravest brains in media policy need to think outside of the top-slicing box. Britain once again needs to lead the civilised world into a new media era, to protect the creation of valuable but vulnerable programming and creative artists.(Maggie Brown Media Guardian)
The development of the content of the BBC Online which I generally consider to be an excellent public resource has not been without its controversial side. This has particularly come from firstly: those who had no concept of how the web could be developed and how that development could be influenced by strong Broadcasting institutions with their roots in 'old media'; secondly those who have a strong vested interest in the BBC failing such as News Corporation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the future of what was once called broad-casting (the production of a limited amount of content targeted at large to very large audiences has largely been a thing of the past for several years. There will of course always be occasional events which comfortably generate local audiences of more than 10 million at the time but these will become increasingly rare. Massive stories about Royalty, England in a World Cup Final (if it ever happens again), probably the upcoming Olympics in certain finals if there is a national interest (oh and Dr. Who! ):
The Doctor Who Special on Christmas Day won a 50% share of the total television audience, averaging over 12 million viewers and peaking at 13.8 million. These are the Doctor's best viewing figures since the Tom Baker days of 1979. (Caroline Thompson operating officer for the BBC Jan 2008)
It is many years since the BBC was promoting a heavyhanded patrician Broadcasting policy largely dominated by a Reithian discourse that was often accused of being elitist. This posting starts to explore the history of BBC online and the policies that have underpinned it. It also looks briefly at the enemies of the BBC in the populist broadcasting / multicasting domain as well examining the pusilanimous attitude of New Labour in the face of the populist freemarketeers such as Sky and its ilk circling around an increasingly embattled BBC which is doing an excellent job. This blog takes the position that many people don't know what they've got 'til its gone'! As far as I'm concerned everybody who is taking out a subscription to Sky is banging a nail into the future of high quality British multicasting.
The Development of BBC Online
25 April 2006:
Ashley Highfield, the BBC director of new media and technology, also announced proposals to put the corporation's entire programme catalogue online for the first time from tomorrow in written archive form, as an "experimental prototype", and rebrand MyBBCPlayer as BBC iPlayer. (ibid)
It was announced that all future BBC digital output and services around three concepts -
Mr Highfield said the share concept would allow users to "create your own space and to build bbc.co.uk around you", encouraging them to launch ther own blogs and post home videos on the site. (My emphasis)
At the heart of the play concept is MyBBCPlayer, which will allow the public to download and view BBC programming online and was today rebranded as BBC iPlayer. (My emphasis)
The find concept relates to next-generation search and unlocking the BBC archive. From tomorrow internet users will for the first time be able to search for details of the corporation's entire programme catalogue as far back as 1937. (My emphasis)
Is it "All About Audiences"?
So, as far the Trust is concerned this is not a debate about the interests of broadcasters. In our view it's not even about the interests of the BBC, narrowly defined. It is – or it ought to be – a debate about the interests of audiences.(My emphasis: Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, to the IPPR Oxford Media Convention 17 January 2008)
I would go further and in doing so seek to expand the remit of the debate into broadcasting into that of cultural policy in general. As with other policy environments and discources this raises the issue of citizenship. Just as there is a concept of social citizenship so there is a concept of cultural citizenship.
It seems the 'New' Labour government can't keep its hands off the BBC for a moment and there is already another round of examining the public servivce broadcasting (multicasting) systems in this country. At the heart of this is the continuing attempt to remove some of the BBC's rights to the whole of the licence fee which is often simply described as "another tax" by the more simple minded. Rather than being this it is a licence fee which runs a core element of what can be described as cultural citizenship which ensures that there is a good system of representation at the heart of the British nation, a system which isn't controlled by government but which has accountability.
This blog argues that it isn't "all about audiences" rather it is all about the creation and maintenance of a system of citizenship which has public service broadcasting / multicasting at its very heart. Those citizens are also the audiences. My concern is the construction and discourse which turns a citizen into an 'audience' and is something which will be discussed in greater depth on this blog. Here I wish to underscore the point that as the World moves towards an increasingly digitised and fragmented mediascape a core concept about media which needs to be maintained is that of citizenship.
The Changing Media Environment
Many people have a stronger sense of themselves as individuals rather than as parts of communities. Minorities are becoming more confident about asserting their needs. Britain is becoming much more culturally diverse. We see increasing numbers of people who identify with multiple communities – social, cultural or geographical. There's a rising demand for personalisation and customisation – for services crafted just for you. (Sir Michael Lyons ibid)
Lyons then proceeds to make the following key points:
- The BBC cannot cherry pick its audiences as commercial broadcasters can. Because of the way it is funded, and because its Public Purposes mean that it has to engage with everyone in the UK, the BBC has to find ways to reach all its audiences in all their complexity. (My emphasis)
- This doesn't mean that every programme or piece of online content has to satisfy every individual licence fee payer – although some kinds of BBC output should appeal to very large sections of the audience. (My emphasis)
- But it does mean that every audience member must find enough they value from the BBC to justify the licence fee and to provide the means by which the BBC can engage with them in order to deliver its Public Purposes. (My emphasis)
I think it will be useful to start to unpack these ideas bearing in mind that I prefer the concept of the cultural citizen to that of "the audience".
...every audience member must find enough they value from the BBC
Firstly let us substitute the concept of cultural citizen from the nebulous one of "audience". I have no doubt in my mind that every single citizen in this country - and also many global citizens have gained enormous value from the BBC, even if after the time they have left school they never watch listen to or access BBC content again.
The embedded values and the links with education alone and the educational broadcasting alone have provided enormous added value to the country as a whole. Those who are mentally tied to quantitative research methods or "metrics", as the trendy term seems to be, will conveniently ignore all this embedded value which has significantly contributed to the general Social / Political / Economic / Cultural (SPEC) environment that is Britain today.
Secondly let us look at the notion of "every audience member...". Well I think this is certainly an arguable point. There is a national grid for electricity, there is a legal obligation for all houses to attached to the telephone system should the citizen require it, there is a nationally levied road tax which all vehicle owners MUST pay however little they use their vehicle. There is an NHS system which is always available to all even if some people never get have accidents and die peacefully in their sleep without a day's illness or if they decide to continually go private. All of these things are aspects of contemporary citizenship and all of them rightly allow for individual agency.
Given the importance of creating and maintaining a multicasting system which provides information etc in as unbiased a fashion as possible which can act as a core part of every single citizens training as a citizen the notion of Public Service Broadcasting / Multicasting is fundamental to our way of life and everybody who is working should be contributing towards this. In return for this we should be expecting high quality rather than the dumbing down which has been a feature of populist media otherwise known as 'lowest common denominator'.
The Dangers of "Topslicing" the BBC Licence Fee
Sarkozy with a 'supermodel'. Oddly just as New Labour wants to dumb down the BBC as much as possible man of the Right in France Sarkozy wants a "French BBC"
One of the biggest dangers to the future of Public Service Multicasting and the future of the BBC as a powerful global player able to stand up the bullying of the 'Media Moguls' such as Rupert Murdoch and News International is the concept of 'topslicing' the BBC. This was something when the pusillanimous Tessa Jowell was the Culture Minister and is currently still being threatened. Given that this week we have already lost the culture minister with the resignation of Peter Hain citizens should be extremly dubious about the abilities of government ministers to be able to control this area.
Given that New Labour caved into Murdoch in their bid for power in 1997 everything that this governement do in relation to media and the BBC must be treated with an enormous amount of scepticism. Already the BBC has become the third most used site in the UK which is an extraordinary success story yet there is still whingeing in the wings about the license fee. The fact of the matter is that in terms of content and quality the BBC is topping the world league because to compare the use of Google or Yahoo is to compare using a TV company with a phone directory not an entirely adeqaute comparison:
The BBC website is number three in the UK. The two companies above us - Google and MSN - and the two companies below us, Yahoo! and eBay, are all the American giants. How we can adapt to that and operate on a global scale while still being predominantly funded through the UK licence, that's an issue for us.(Ashley Highfield)
From the perspective of public service multicasting Highfield's comments would be well served by some decent quality qualitative research into the length of use as well as frequency of access to the BBC website citizens make. It is something which can also be partially achieved through the BBCs own Analytics figures which I'm sure it has.
What is topslicing?
It is as Lyons elaborates below:
...the suggestion that a part of each licence fee should go to a body that would use the money to subsidise public service content from broadcasters other than the BBC.
Firstly let us as with the term "audience" analyse the underlying discourse that the BBC is dragged into here and seek to change it. Subsidise means to assist or to keep down the price of a commodity (Chambers dictionary defintion).
Well the notion of 'topslicing' uncoincidently emerged from the Jowell era after the BBC got into trouble with the government over Iraq. Please note that all the bad things that were expected to happen after the invasion happened have happened and there were no "weapons of mass destruction". However in the wider political context topslicing must be seen as a method of disciplining the BBC by government. For this reason alone it is right to oppose it.
"Topslicing" is more than this though. Throughout the period of 'New' Labour there has been a continual undermining of the BBC and the Public Service Broadcasting ethos. This has been very much because of the pressure applied on the BBC since the 1990 Broadcasting Act under the Conservatives and which New Labour have followed in their love affair with Rupert Murdoch. There will be more on the relationships with Murdoch and Greg Dyke's revelations after his resignation elsewhere in the blog.
Thankfully the Guardian's media correspondent Maggie Brown has made the point loud and clear when it comes to topslicing:
What no one raised at the Oxford media summit is that the top-slicing idea, which may see the cutting down and undermining of the BBC, is quite at odds with international developments.
Just across the channel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy is not only besotted with Carla Bruni. He is also a huge fan of the BBC. So much so that he plans to end the French public service channels' partial dependence on advertising and turn them purely non-commercial
Why Give Licence Fee Subsidies to Commercial Enterprises?
The reality is that as the new mediascape continues to develop there is less and less need for ITV and Channel 4. This is proven by the decline in audiences, advertising increasingly moving online a corresponding crash in revenue for old media and in the case of ITV the crashing of the share price. A recent survey suggested that actually ITV had been doing alright on advertising revenue expressing surprise at the slump in the stock market value In this latter case the market is 'pricing in' the future estimates of ITV advertising earnings. In an era which in media terms is driven by the equation:
What you want, where you want it , when you want it
Do we need these traditional old media companies?
There is no need for all these traditional broadcasters. Personally I never use either ITV and very rarely Channel 4 (this was my favourite channel until the early 1990s when it became increasingly dumbed down). In the latter case this is to access the excellent John Snow and his team. I occasionally use Film 4. Increasingly audiences are migrating online. There are plenty of opportunities for commercial broadcasters to thrive there if they are any good. As it is they will have to compete with the BBC and increasingly the best quality Newspapers which themselves are increasing moving towards a multimedia environment. Indeed it is worth reminding readers that in a BBC made game on the rise of video-gaming made around 3 years ago David Puttnam commented that perhaps between 2015-2020 TV as we know it will have largely disappeared.
When I research articles for this blog I never seem to get good links coming up from the search engines from ITV or Channel 4. Most of the articles are researched down to the current Google listing of page twenty and occasionally even beyond this. The BBC frequently comes up. Whilst this finding can only be taken at more of an anecdotal level it points to the fact that when it comes to doing serious work on the web the BBC along with the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Economist, The Daily Telegraph score far more hits and I link into them far more frequently. As this is now a large film and media studies blog this might be taken as indicative that worthwhile content is not being provided by the commercial broadcasters and that their web presence is weak. If they can't find commercially viable audiences at a global level to pay their overpriced salaries then I certainly don't expect to subsidise them. It is a competitive commercial market and that is that!
My own suspicion is that the era for these companies is largely over and that they will probably disappear perhaps to be replaced by a plethora of more adaptive multimedia companies online. The ITV is a dinosaur best forgotten unless Michael Grade can use its past content creatively while turning it around to face the multicasting age. It should be able to contend with players such as Murdoch but it will have to do so without government support, however it should also have its remit to provide public service broadcasting / multicasting removed. Let it be an honest provider of pap within the regulatory regime of the moment. Its shareholders and those working for it in the past had an easy time of it as the other half of a duopoly. Let them work for their money and convince shareholders that they are a better bet than Google or Myspace. Personally I wouldn't want my pension invested with them at the moment.
Why is the BBC Different? Cultural Citizenship & The Public Sphere
The BBC is different because it sets a benchmark by which all other multimedia multicasting companies MUST meet or beat. The BBC isn't perfect and never will be, but by setting the benchmark for standards which effectively have become those of cultural citizenship in the contemporary era it gives us all a foundation upon which to demand improvements in content and comment upon issues such as over or under representation of specific groups or issues. This in short should be the central axis around which any public sphere (Habermas) should revolve and evolve. These are the standards by which we as citizens and therefore license fee payers should be judging the BBC and the content of its developing multicasting environment.
The notion of a genuinely interactive public sphere linked to access to knowledge and information and tied to a concept of citizenship is entirely antipathetic to commercial broadcasting models. Left liberalism has been so anti the patrician notion of the BBC that it has left the door wide open to rampant commercialism and as a result anybody foolish enough to try and change channels from BBC News 24 has to undergo a barrage of repeats of Big Brother or some other rubbishy "reality TV" show: thank you left liberal populists and your neo-con allies in News Corporation!
The notion of having a vital and influential public sphere means that a public service broadcasting institution should have far more independence than it does at present from the government of the day. There is no doubt that the BBC has to go cap in hand to the government of the day when a spending review and an updating of the licensing fee is sought. This is not to say that Parliament should not have some say in how this sort of instituion is run. A standing select committee for this and other cultural policy matters should be an important role, however this should be entirely divorced from matters of funding.
Funding through an automatically inflation-linked licence fee year on year should be the basic funding formula for the BBC however it should be able to access more funding when there is a specific case such as upgrading technologies on a national basis, such as instituting Freeview or BBC On-line for example.
This doesn't mean that every programme or piece of online content has to satisfy every individual licence fee payer
The second point that Lyons made in relation to the role of the BBC overlaps with my comments above. With the notion of fragmenting audiences and overlapping identities being very much the order of the day, let alone issues of personal preference and taste this is clearly a pertinent comment. We live in a media rich world which is getting richer by the day and offers extraordinary diversity. Pleasing all of the people all of the time is neither possible nor desirable providing most of the people most of the time with diversity combined with good quality is achievable.
Providing a plethora of content and also an environment in which content can be at least partially created by users is fundamental to the future of media and in this sense the programme suggested by the BBC has been very perceptive in its notions of how to interact with new media trends. The problem is that the very cultural heritage which we as citizens have already paid for as citizens is so rich and of such good quality and continues to be that the commercial operators cry foul! They persuaded the government to reduce the power and effectiveness of online opportunities such as the BBC iPlayer. It is this that is anti-democratic and is a clear case of government acting in the interests of a minority but powerful commercial group against the interests of those people who voted it in in the first place.
Of course this links into the first point made by Lyons:
the BBC has to find ways to reach all its audiences in all their complexity
Strange then isn't it that the government acts to curtail the BBC in an area of its key strength and advantage over crass commercialism. It is a case of citizens and audiences not getting the quality they deserve and have paid for already rather it is a case of commerce restricting access to increase its own bottom lines.
What is the BBC hoping to develop?
The Proposed Media City Salford
The advent of the networking model of society which is symbolised by the development of the internet is increasingly effecting how we envisage new ways of working and communicating in the contemporary world. Here an extract from a recent speech by Caroline Thompson shows just how far the notion of a networking society is reaching into core institutions:
Instead of the old hub and spoke arrangement, where London is the hub and the regions are the spokes, the BBC of the 21st Century will be based on a fully networked model. A model that will harness the power of human networks, tapping into a pool of creative energy across the country.(My Empahsisis: Caroline Thompson Chief Operating Officer the BBC Friday 11 January 2008
The move of the BBC headquarters to Salford is an important move and underpins in a physical and rooted way the virtual possibilities of media which is imnportant. Nevertheless it is recognised that new media is fundamental to the future of the BBC:
This will include the central Future Media team that leads the development of the BBC's offering across the internet, digital TV and mobiles, and also the Media Research & Innovation team. These are two of our most important businesses and, together with Future Media colleagues supporting programme-making areas based in Salford...The Director of FM&T, Ashley Highfield, believes this is a chance to reinvent Future Media and how the BBC goes about creating it. (My Emphasis, Caroline Thompson)
Rolling Out Web 3.0?
Currently Ashley Highfield is currently thinking beyond the Web 2.0 model already being developed and already more based upon audience interactivity to a Web 3.0 model:
The web 3.0 world puts a layer on top of that you could call editorial. It says this is probably what you were actually looking at. It says we the BBC know who you are. We've built up a good relationship with you through CRM. We know you were looking for a cop show from the '60s well here's a really good one that we know you - because we know something about you - will enjoy. (Ashley Highfield)
Thus far I have examined the notion of topslicing as yet another attack on the BBC from a government which isn't worthy of including the name 'Labour' in its title as it kowtows to the media moguls. I have also placed the debates about where the BBC should be going in the context of cultural citizenship. It is a concept that must be made central to the agenda of any serious media policy debate for it is this that will help to make Britain both competitive and a beacon of civilisation in less than ideal world. I have also examined somke of the thinking currently within the BBC and suggested that cultural citizenship is a term which should replace audiences. Issues of representation should always be at the heart of media debates and the BBC should seek to represent those aspects of life which more commercial media organisations are not prepared to risk. More funding of challenging films and programmes and increasing levels of access to older materials on the BBC are important aspects of developing a media manifesto for Britian's future.
From Ken Loach's ironically titled It's a Free World 2007. We can do without this 'free for all' in media. Citizenship comes first!
The Trouble With Trust: Building Confidence In Institutions:Mark Thompson Tuesday 15 January 2008
August 23, 2007
French Postwar Cultural and Film Policy Overview
This article provides a brief overview of French Post Second World War Film Policy. It is a small section of my overall project which is to provide a synoptic overview of the history of European cinema in the major European industrial countries. It skims over the background political developments of this period as well. As this blog develops there will be the capacity to zoom into to resources and articles on individual films / movements / directors and to zoom out to gain an overview of developments at a synoptic level.
After the liberation of France in 1944 Charles de Gaulle (above) the leader of the Free French becomes leader of the provisional government. This is replaced by the Fourth Republic in 1946.
Finally, in October 1944, Roosevelt and Churchill recognised the French Committee of National Liberation as the provisional government of France and de Gaulle as its leader. De Gaulle curtly responded, 'The French government is happy to be called by its name'. De Gaulle had won and, in the process, inflicted on the American President his greatest personal defeat of the Second World War. (BBC The Allies at War)
French Cultural and Film Policy
French cultural policy has historically been strongly centralised and interventionist. From 1960-1993 France has been Europe’s leading film-making country which Graham[i] attributes to three interrelated factors; the cultural policy environment[ii], interacting with a large pool of talent and a receptive public[iii]. The argument here is that the latter conditions are dependent upon the cultural policy framework for without this structuring feature local talent would be attracted either abroad or to other industries such as television which would provide a more secure income.
The construction of a receptive audience is more complex requiring considerable sociological research to provide more substantial reasons for the existence of particular audiences. The Cannes film festival was founded in 1946 primarily as a showcase for French films functioning as the tip of a lively film festival culture. The role of cultural policy and planning initiatives in ensuring that these festivals are financially sound is beyond the brief of this work. When Cannes was started Venice was the prime festival venue in Venice, but, over a period of years Cannes managed to reach the position it still holds today has as the premier European film festival.
An important aspect of the development of French cinema is in the highly ambiguous relationship which exists betwen France and the USA. In hindsight it can be seen that French cinema has acted synechdocally, as a part signifying the greater whole, for this relationship which is also coming to terms with their own post-colonial past and issues of modernisation. While it is hard to evaluate there is also the issue of French national identity and repairing national pride. France’s international reputation regarding cinema had come to be built on what has developed as an 'auteurist-industrial' mode of production.
Film as an Assertion of National Identity
The cultural strands of auterism existed before the war, however Nazi and Vichy controls had limited this aspect of French cinema which was an important source of cultural pride amongst the intellectual elites. In the wider cultural sphere the Second World War saw the global pre-eminence of France in the field of fine arts almost entirelydisappear . Modern art and modern artists moved to the USA,
France's Position in a Changing World
French troops in Algeria 1954
The French relationship with America was not just in the realm of arts and cinema. The history of the 20th century itself is the story of America coming to reach hegemony as a power with a global reach which has never been seen before. This was at the expense of the European empires of which France was one. France had always been been behind in the empire-building stakes. Prior to the rise of America Britain had held pride of place. During the 20th century France has been invaded twice and rescued largely by the Americans. It had failed to modernise prior to WW II which can be seen as partially being responsible for its defeat. This was taken on board as a primary task by de Gaulle’s provisional government 1944-45 and then the post-war Fourth Republic[iv]. Women - whose position in society is a powerful indicator of the rate of progress of a state - didn’t have the vote until after the war for example.
Vietnamese soldiers hoist a victory flag at the battle of Dien Bien Phu 1954
France had been largely marginalised in the establishment of post-war Europe, primarily conducted between Stalin and Roosevelt then Truman with Churchill having some say. The French empire started collapsing around it immediately afterwards. The huge defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese nationalists at DienBien Phu in 1954 led to the establishing of an independent Vietnam organised into northern and southern zones. Morocco and Tunisia were also awarded their autonomy by 1956. This was the year in which the 1954 revolt in Algeria had turned into war. 1956 was also the year in which both Britain and France had become involved in the Suez crisis, an incident which politically sealed their fates as leading players on the world geo-political scene and effectively marked the end of European imperial ambitions. The hostility of the United States towards this adventurist action led to ignominious withdrawal and governmental crisies in both countries. The routes taken by France and Britain were quite different. France eventually installed General de Gaulle (08 / 01 / 59) as an archetypal strong leader in 1958 with the ability to change the constitution approved by referendum. [de Gaulle biography]
De Gaulle becomes President of France January 1959 (Above)
From the end of the war a tension between France and the USA emerged around cinema. The trade agreements established between France and the USA included film export quotas as part of the agreement for delivering Marshall Aid. Marshall Aid was the funds which the USA made available to help fund post-war reconstruction in Europe and thus stabilise the region conditional upon providing support for liberal democratic politics. These quotas were to prove a symbolically important bone of contention. The history of protectionist measures instituted by the French to ensure the survival of their own film industry go back to 1928 the Herriot Decree introducing a quota system. Following this a ceiling was created of 150 American films per year in 1936. In 1952 this was lowered to 110. In May 1946 the Blum-Byrnes agreement was established which stipulated that that French films must be screened for at least four out of every thirteen weeks - equivalent to slightly less than one third of available screen time.
This created a strong negative reaction amongst the French film industry who felt extremly threatened by the immediate post-war ‘swamping’ - or massive popular demand depending on your point of view! - of French screens with American output. Arguably this represented huge pent-up supply and demand. The French film industry which had been largely unchallenged during the occupation started a defensive mobilisation at the end of 1947 and early in 1948. As a result there was a demonstration from all parts of the industry in Paris of approximately 10,000 people. This accompanied a vigorous publicity and lobbying campaign. As a result of the pressure the quota was renegotiated giving French films a minimum of well over 40 % of available screen time, five weeks out of twelve.
Of course read through eyes which are not driven by self-interest or nationalist hubris it could be argued that the French general public much preferred the output of Hollywood, its narratives and its content. Hollywood for millions of ordinary people across Europe signified progress and liberal democracy firing idealism and hope at a time of reconstruction and revelations about the horrors and deep traumas of war in general and the Holocaust in particular.
The First Plan of the post-war republic between 1947-1950 incorporated concerns about cinema and proposed to reduce taxes on the cinema, build studio capacity, to modernise and rebuild cinema theatres and establish a specialist body to co-ordinate cinema. As a result as early as 1946 the Centre National de la Cinematographie ( CNC ) was established. In 1947 it took over responsibility for the film festival at Cannes. In 1948 the loi d’aide was set up. This didn’t provide any subsidies but ensured that a proportion of profits from the industry were reinvested in the industry.
Financial assistance was also offered to producers in proportion to receipts of the last film they had made. This policy was an attempt to ensure continuing financial support for the creation of new French films. The policy was moderately successful and during the 1950’s it provided approximately 17% of the total investment in film production in France. This system was reliant upon high attendance figures to be successful. However many of the films failed to receive critical acclaim and audiences began to decline partly due to the mediocrity of the products. As a result the French parliament in 1953 set up a development aid fund which was designed to promote higher quality and innovation. Projects were to be: “French and of a kind to serve the cause of cinema or to open new perspectives in the art of cinematography”[v]. Speakers in the National Assembly also argued for the importance of education over pure profits. This position was clearly a conflation of aesthetics and national identity. This added selective aid to that of automatic aid designated in 1948 thus making available funds for low-cost independent film-makers also coincided with much lighter and more effective cinema technologies made production cheaper and location shooting possible.
Postwar French cultural Policy & the Links to Vichy France
Whilst the aesthetic nationalist traditions can be traced to 1918, the industrial cultural policy framework influencing present day France has its origins in Petain’s Vichy collaborationist government. A new ruling body for the industry was established in Paris the Committee for the Organization of the Cinematographic Industries (COIC). The regulations they introduced laid the basis for a more stable financial structure, policies to boost short film production, establishing controls oer box-office receipts and establishing a new film school IDHEC (Now Femis).
The convergence of political and financial support alongside technological innovation provided the basis for the emergence of the ‘New Wave’ in 1958 coincided with the recent installation of the Gaullist regime which was concerned with protectionist ideas particularly in relation to cultural concerns and considered Hollywood as threatening to dilute the culture, as it was increasing its market share of cinema takings. Government aid to the industry came through establishing the avance sur recettes (which still exists) system. This advance on potential takings acted as a form of subsidy to those films which didn’t become profitable and acted as a soft loan for those films which did move into profits as some of the profits was used to pay back the advance. Acting as a form of underwriting this enabled many people to become directors for the first time stimulating production.
The inception of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) [Sample chapter available here!] allowed space for critics and policy-makers to support cinema in the form of the ‘art film’. As a cinema for audiences with considerable cultural capital and those concerned with increasing their cultural capital and the financial means to do this, French government policy enabled indigenous cinema to compete against Hollywood at a time when TV was beginning to erode the mass-audience base of cinema. On average between 30-40 films a year received the avance, which represented approximately a quarter of the production.
Francois Truffauts 400 Blows (1959) was the film which announced the arrival of the Nouvelle Vague only months after de Gaulle came to power.
Falling Box Office Receipts and Audience
In common with cinema in general there was a continuous steep decline in cinema-going dropping from around 400 million attendances in 1959 to around 180 million by 1969. The context had moved from a crisis of production to one based upon exhibition, a crisis which was general in western countries at this time largely because of the impact of TV. French cultural policy had to adapt to the changing circumstances and in 1967 the first step to try and halt the decline was put into place by allowing exhibitors to benefit from the development funds through the Fonds de soutien. This helped to modernise cinemas but benefited larger chains rather than smaller independents leading to rationalisation and concentration, a process which happened amongst the distributors thus reducing the numbers of films available. This could be seen as bad for consumers by limiting choice but it signalled a clear problem of supply outstripping demand.
Furthermore there is the issue of the viewing experience! The rapid improvements in TV technologies and the failure to re-invest in making cinema an attractive outing was a failure to adapt to newer audience requirements. Consequently from some consumer points of view consolidation of exhibition space was beneficial to consumers. The financial support for exhibitors helped to establish multiplexes in the larger towns and cities. This reflected an international tendency to make widespread releases of films in order to increase the speed of receipts on a given film thus amortising the costs of production quickly.
Alongside the specific help given to exhibitors the relaxation of censorship after 1968 which was general across the west encouraged both the production and exhibition of sex films and it wasn’t until 1976 that a law was passed preventing sex-films from benefiting from government support. At the same time new taxes were instituted on the production and exhibition of these films. The intention was to reign in the pornography market back to the approximate 10% of market share which had always sustained it.
Throughout the period of the 1960s through the 1970s TV ownership blossomed as it had done over the rest of Europe. As disposable incomes rose leisure other leisure pursuits developed reducing audiences. In parallel to this TV became an important exhibitor of films. Between 1965 and 1975 the number of films screened on TV doubled. Films were a relatively cheap way of filling up continuously expanding broadcasting schedules, and the French TV monopoly ORTF was broken up into seven separate companies. This was partly motivated by an attempt to control costs making a proportion of each channel’s income dependent upon viewing numbers to increase competitiveness. Popular films which were also cheap were popular with schedulers too. This led to the numbers of art films which had received the avance de recettes being shifted from prime-time viewing.
TV also steadily became important producers of films and there was a special budget allowance of 8 million francs allowed for film production in 1979 for the TFI and Antenne 2 channels which joined the 2 channels which had had a production license since 1974. By 1982 the Bredin report on French cinema pointed out that joint production and advance sale of broadcasting rights had significantly transformed film production and distribution. Becoming exhibition-led rather than production-led, the influence of cultural policy that was directly intervention declined changing to a more regulatory role, whilst TV has taken over as the ‘effective controller of the industry’ suggests Forbes.[vi]
In many respects Forbes’ analysis effectively shows that the processes of globalisation, in the form of centralising capital were gradually becoming focused upon media concerns. Cultural policy at the level of state control was being eroded. Historically it is likely that the period of French film history from the inception of the nouvelle vague to the awarding of several TV companies with the rights of film production will go down as a period when the auteur film flourished in a way that no other single country has ever seen or is likely to see. These films were somewhat elitist in that they were made for a largely intellectualised audience, it is nonetheless important to ensure that cinema seen as a form of public sphere operating at levels of both form and content should have some relative autonomy from purely commercial concerns. Arguably the way forward for European cinema and the institutional frameworks supporting it needs to be multiperspectival utilising some of the insights which informed French cinema policy.
1 [i]Graham, Peter. 1997 p
[ii] Forbes, Jill. 1992, p 2 makes a stronger case arguing that the audience has been constructed and maintained by ‘supporting the production of films that are intended ot for the mass audience but for the smaller , educated, middle-class
3 [iv]Joll, James.1990, p 448.
4 [v]Forbes, Jill. ( 1992 ) p 6.
5 [vi] Forbes ( 1992 ) p 10 .
March 25, 2007
The successful fight for JMW Turner's: The Blue Rigi
I was very pleased to find out this morning from my email box that JMW Turner's The Blue Rigi has been bought by the Tate Gallery. What gave me special pleasure was that I had bought 6 brushstrokes through the special National Art Fund innovative online campaign.
OK my life as an art collector extends into the virtual rather than the real and aside from interesting issues as to whether I've got some virtual art which is tradeable inside Second Life the fact that people had to be charitable at all in order to ensure that this painting stayed within the UK and available for public contemplation is a serious cultural policy issue. There is no way I would have contributed to a Tracy Emin piece or Damien Hurst piece. Amusing? Yes. Intellectually challenging? Possibly but rarely. Overhyped? Yes. Overvalued? Yes. How can we reasonably compare to Turner arguably the very first modernist painter and one who was up on the latest theories of colur (Goethe) and pereception (developing psychological theories) in his day producing valuable paintings which stand the test of cultural time.
In recent years it has become especially trendy amongst fans of 'New' Labour to spend their time in a typically postmodern way of using culture as an instrument of economic and social policy. Forget 'Art for Art's Sake' they sneer, don't be judgemental about content, let populism rule, what the audience think they want is all right just providing we can make money out of it and we can sit around getting audiences to evaluate their experience for the marketing people. This of course ignores issues of ideology and the construction of dominant cultural discourses.
Instrumentalism & Cultural Policy
Well, taken from this entirely instrumentalist perspective which at a theoretical level appears to subsume Walter Benjamin's notion of removing the auratic aspect of Art with a capital A and turn it into an excuse for commerce; paintings of the quality of Turner's Blue Rigi are fundamental to the success of megapolises such as London and New York. You can hardly hear a native English accent in central London in summer and now increasingly all year around. Students and tourists flock to London because it is a cultural capital of the World. those who have considerable cultural capital and wish to invest more in this go to London and its galleries as well as enjoying the signature architecture which is an iconic must for the contemporary global city fighting for the tourist trade, and in the case of London adding value to attract global financiers to work in London. Great art therefore can be seen as underpinning the attraction of London as a place to live and work. A process which has rather neatly been defined as Brandscaping.
Even from the pitiful perspective of 'anything goes' providing it makes money New Labour should have the made the funds available to keep this 'high added value' sort of art without all sorts of quangos having to chase around for funding which is small fry at the national level. The irony is that City councils elsewhere in the country are beginning to sell of their own smaller art treasures because they can't afford to run their education and social care systems.
The January Warwick podcast by Munira Mirza is a welcome antidote to this sort of thinking. Hopefully it marks the beginnings of a change away to a more balanced view of culture than extreme populist postmodernism. this is not the same as saying that the cultural popular should be ignored. There is an issue of definitions as well as issues of quality.
Taxation & Paying for Art
Why these mainly Northern councils have no money when the Chancellor emphasises 10 years of apparently unbroken economic growth is an interesting question. It is also hard to disagree with the Tories when they rail against the levels of taxation. Even they can justifiably note that poorer people are being hit by the tax system, just funding poorer people still.
At risk of slipping into anecdote most of my monthly outgoings are in the form of taxation. As a couple we spend over £120 per week on petrol. Most of this cost is tax in one form or another. Furthermore as my wife is currently a full-time student in receipt of a government loan she is effectively paying twice for her education as a huge proportion of the loan goes on this fuel every term. On top of that the course is materials and equipment heavy which attracts the regressive 17.5% VAT. At the same time I receive no tax relief and currently must commute a long way to work which is in the underpaid Tertiary education sector. We do not even have parity with school-teachers!
Three months of longish distance commuting shows that many people are in similar position . The key point here is not an individual whinge, it is to emphasise the huge tax burden that ordinary people are paying either to get to work or to get an education. Yet at the same time our cultural citizenship is being eroded. Why on earth should I or anybody else have to respond to begging bowl campaigns to maintain or improve an economically / culturally / socially valuable infrastructure in which content (the Art itself is central). Quite obviously I already do this through the disproportinate tax system. It is a benighted cultural policy framework increasingly based upon narrow accountacy discourse which creates this situation.
It is now the case that that the National Lottery which is a 'voluntary' tax on the very poorest who have had little training in probability theory. The fact that the Government has this at all is shameful. The fact that our culture is dependent upon the wheel of fate rather than a properly funded policy framework is despicable. The fact that a large amount of this extremly dubious tax is now being siphoned away from the cause it is promoted for supporting to the Olympic extravaganza is dihonest and exploitative beyond belief. The plain fact is that almost nobody funding the Olympic games through their gambling will be able to afford a seat in the stadium highlights the point.
As taxpayers we are seemingly paying a lot for 'cultural consultants' and a range of parastites positioning themselves around policy honeypots while a cultural drain continues in line with the general opening up of wealth divides in the era of post-neo-liberal cultural-economic policies. They are the real vultures of culture!
The Olympic Games and the funding of it is a 21st century version of Roman gladitorial contests. Wage slaves are funding the pleasures of the rich. As a crumb they can sample the pleasures second hand through the Mass Media. Of course we can buy into the regeneration argument and I'm sure most of the population in the UK feel that the Millenium Dome bonanza was an excellent way of spending vast amounts of money rather than bulding say twenty art galleries the cost of the one in Wasall and some art to put in it! the citizens of Athens would probably agree as they pass the crumbling and unloved Olympic Stadium built for the last Olympics. Interestingly the tourist population is there for the genuine cultural heritage which seems to show that quality will out!
It is time that we fought for a system of governance which values and promotes notions of cultural citizenship which should have at its heart the accessibility of canonical cultural works - This opens up a can of worms on canons but that is another debate. This needs to be thought of on a global basis just as any other facet of advanced citizenry should be. I want people from all over the world to be able to experience great art. The nature of individual paintings means that people usually have to travel to it unlike music which is more accessible.
I resent being arm-twisted to pay more for what as a state the UK should pay for anyway and what I consider I have more than paid for through my taxes. If I give money or goods it usually goes to Oxfam or global development campaigns and that is how I prefer to keep it.
When it comes to the arts and culture I would also prefer a wider European cultural policy perspective to be developed. Small accession states such as Lithuania inherited quite a good cultural infrastructure in terms of the numbers of galleries and museums and performance spaces. These countries became impoverished through neo-liberal approaches to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Now they should be having more support to rebuild the good aspects of cultural citizenship which were previously available under Soviet rule. Cultural citizenship and a common cultural sense of 'Europeaness' is more likely to succeed in uniting Europe at the level of the quotidian than highly abstract constitutional structures which have little to do with everyday European citizens. In brief culture is far more valuable than just simple accountancy benchmarks. It is where it is hardest to define that perhaps it becomes most valuable in terms of geist.