Cultural initiative in Italy is characterized by the plurality of bodies involved. The management of cultural affairs is accomplished through an interlaced system of administrative bodies, whose competences are dispersed among several sectors and administrative levels. The administrative model divides the country into twenty regions, 92 provinces, and some 8,000 municipalities distinguished not only by social and economic conditions but above all by their cultural backgrounds. Cultural events and projects of all kinds are often supervised by several bodies at different levels, including organizations under the control of the private sector.
For a long time, activities related to the protection and restoration of the nation's extremely rich cultural heritage have held the pride of place among the various cultural initiatives carried out and/or supported by the Italian state.
The favored position of restoration and protection of the nation's cultural heritage is quaranteed by the Italian Constitution, whose Article 9 declares that "the Republic shall promote the development of culture and scientific research; it shall care for the nation's historic and artistic heritage." Cultural matters are mentioned in the Constitution once again in Articles 117 and 118. The former article establishes the competence of the local and regional authorities over museums and libraries, while the latter provides for the possibility of establishing lower-level controls over other specific fields through the introduction of the appropriate legislation.
Broadening the constitutional standards, the statutes of the regions generally envisage a more direct intervention in the cultural field, based on a more dynamic concept of cultural life. A typical example of this broader and more liberal approach is the formulation found in the statute of Lombardy, where the Region "favors the development of culture in all its free manifestations." Such definitions imply greater local government influence in the cultural field, a tendency which is confirmed also by Decree 616 of 1977.
Attempts to redefine the traditional concept of the strategy of cultural development started in the late 1960s, when the first studies were made aimed at analyzing and redirecting the public spending in the cultural domain (carried out by ISPE -- Istituto di Studi per la Programmazione Economica) as part of the preparatory work for the National Economic Development Plan 1970-1975. The Seventies were marked by massive campaigns in favor of 'democratizing' cultural life, followed by a generous increase of funding. Since the second half of the Eighties, Italy's huge budget deficit on the one hand and active interest in sponsorship for heritage protection and promotion of culture on the other have resulted in a shift away from the traditional state-controlled cultural life and towards a system of more flexible projects with mixed public and private participation.
Support for the so-called "educational and cultural promotion activities" is emerging as a new tendency in the Italian cultural policy. The "promotion" connotes all the initiatives whose purpose is to encourage the creative expression of the people, their participation in and interaction with the manifestations of official culture, the organization of cultural events with massive participation, etc. To counterbalance the overwhelming preponderance of patrimony-oriented activities, recent funding for cultural promotion has in some regions even exceeded the amounts spent on the care for cultural heritage.
The administration's responsibilities concerning the cultural policy are divided both horizontally and vertically. On the central government level, the competences for actions related to the cultural field are distributed among several ministries. The actions of the central government are also constantly tempered by the lower-level authorities embedded within the Italian "regionalist" administrative system, which provides for an ever-present competition between centralist tendencies and local needs and ambitions.
In the absence of a ministry of culture as such, the responsibility for this field is distributed among the following Italian ministries and other bodies:
Italy's general constitutional framework (Constitution of 1948, Articles 5 and 114) provide for a distribution of power and authority in public administration on four organizational levels:
What results from the described model is a polarity between, on one side, the central administration, which lays general quidelines and at the same time holds the most significant share of the funds, and, on the other side, the lower-level bodies which are supposed to carry out specific actions to achieve the defined objectives; but they try to do this in a independent way. The present trend that favors the integration of the technological and scientific infrastructure, cultural communication and opening of possibilities for efficient global actions within the whole of the national culture, is obviously opposed to excessive atomization of the cultural space.
Interventions by several national coordinating bodies seek to neutralize the negative effects of administrative fragmentation, while keeping open the possibility of expression of local interests. Apart from the existing bodies for general purposes, such as the Union of Italian Provinces and the Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani, which partly intervene also in the cultural field, a separate body fully dedicated to cultural coordination, the Inter-regional Co-ordinating Committee for Culture, was established in 1971.
To cater for regional diversities, different organizational and legislative models are applied in different parts of the country, resulting in a proliferation of regional special laws, committees, councils, and institutions trying to meet the needs of specific areas. Actually, the regions are inclined to enforce of their authority by establishing new laws concerning such essential questions as the collaboration of the public and private sectors, or defining their own "cultural systems."
There are also other organizational models, institutions and initiatives dealing with the cultural field, such as the traditionally renowned Academies, private universities, research and coordination Centers, for instance, CIDIM (Italian Center for Musical Initiative), the CINI Foundation dedicated to the organization of exhibitions, congresses and advanced training, etc. Several of these institutions are in private hands.
The intricacies of cultural development in Italy have given rise to the specific phenomenon of "cultural observatories." These institutions, acting as mediators between various state bodies and other groups dealing with cultural planning and the general public usually perform dual functions:
The mission of the cultural observatories in acquiring and interpreting information could be specified as follows:
The process of reshaping the distribution of funds for culture, currently under way in Italy, is proceeding in two main directions:
One would expect that the characteristic "regional" administrative organization in Italy should produce a diversity of trends within the national cultural policy. However, on the pragmatic level of the distribution of funds, one notes at once that the system has some distinctly centralistic traits, since between 50 and 60 per cent of the public money assigned to culture during the last ten years has come from the central administration. Following, in a decreasing order, are the funds provided by the communal (municipal, 25-30 per cent) and regional administrations (about 12 per cent), while the share of the provincial administrations in culture funding remains marginal (around 2.5 per cent).
Recent surveys of the distribution of public spending on culture among the administrative levels indicate a slight drop in the share pertaining to the state and some growth of local participation. But to accomplish a real decentralization of the structure of expenditure among the administrative levels, a radical revision of the tax system would be required. Instead of the present method of central (national) taxatation, some thought should be given to the possibility that local communities may control their income by imposing and collecting taxes in order to obtain the necessary funds to be used in the public sector according to specific needs as seen on the local level.
It should be kept in mind that "public spending for culture" represents only a tenth part of the total expenditure on culture in Italy, while most of the money invested in cultural programs comes from private sources (cultural consumption, advertising, sponsorship). Therefore, although the central authorities may prefer to maintain control over their share of budget, important amounts of money coming from the market enter the cultural field on the regional and, no less significantly, communal (municipal) levels.
The public financing of culture in Italy continued to grow over the last two decades from the beginning of the seventies until the late eighties, with rates increasing progressively until the mid-eighties. A calculation which takes into account the inflation rates shows that during the 1970-1976-1983 period total expenditure increased by the factor of 1-1.33-3.07.
Starting in 1988, the effect of the current cultural policy in Italy, as in other developed countries, has been to reduce state subsidies. Repeated attempts have been made to neutralize the elements of crisis by reorganizing and rationalizating the administrative bodies and their activities. While the implementation of special new laws on heritage protection had acted as a boost to the financing of culture in the preceding period, the fact that those laws were not refinanced caused most of the downturn which occurred after 1988. The decline in funding affected the performing arts sector as well as other sectors and was a reflection of the expenditure reduction policy practiced by the government after the 1989 budgetary crisis. The reduction of the total expenditure on culture was as high as 27 per cent in 1988, then 24 per cent in the following year, dropping to 9 per cent in 1990.
The fall of public funding for culture, which affects the system on both the central and the local level, implies that for purely economic reasons a considerable portion of cultural production is already forced to turn towards the market, either trying to make its offer appealing to as large an audience as possible, or tapping funds coming from alternative sources, through direct sponsorship or even investments by private corporations.
In this respect, Italy has become a model country in Europe, with considerable amounts of money flowing from private investors towards cultural projects. In the absence of pertinent statistics, one can only refer to figures quoted as estimates, according to which between 300 and 400 million US dollars is spent on culture each year by Italian corporations. The maximum corporate tax relief for donations is L2 billion (1.3 million ECUs).
Besides its significant volume, corporate support for arts and culture in Italy is characterized by spontaneity. Sponsorship and other forms of support grew strongly in the wake of the economic boom in the eighties, when the Italian business and financial bodies became aware of the potential economic benefits that could derive from their involvement in preserving and developing various forms of national culture. The two main legal instruments designed to stimulate private initiatives are the following:
The ambiguity of the mentioned regulations and bureaucratic inefficiency have created a situation in which the corporations wishing to gain as much effect as possible from their contributions (measured mostly through marketing and image improvement gains) decide to present their sponsorship expenses as expenses for advertising and promotion, which are fully deductible. The vagueness of the public system in the field of cultural sponsorship limits individual contributors most, and their donations are still relatively marginal.
The issue that still awaits a more precise definition is that of overall coordination of interaction between the public and the private sector. It is obvious that a more clearly defined policy in relation to sponsorship would help to avoid disproportions in financing, which now tends towards locally concentrated sponsorship in more prestigious areas (coinciding with the headquarters of large companies) or towards grouping the initiatives around more prominent and "visible" sectors.
The decentralized model of state organization in Italy is reflected in cultural legislation and the existence of parallel national and regional regulations. A coexistence of national and local legislative powers is the essence of decentralized administration.
Currently, the activities related to cultural patrimony, including both historical and contemporary production, benefit from copious legislative provisions, and there is abundant regional legislation covering museums and libraries. The fact that the field of monument protection itself continues to be governed by an outdated national pre-war law is a serious setback. The legislation focused solely on "repairing" and "restoring" historic monuments is highly inappropriate in the present conditions, when both the state and the general public are looking for solutions that would also involve the expression of cultural creativity and promotion in the protection of cultural patrimony.
The subject of copyright for fine arts, literary works and cultural information in general is covered in a comprehensive law passed in 1943.
The legislation governing the performing arts consists of two national laws dealing with music and the cinema passed in the Sixties and several regional laws. The most recent law (1985) concerns the creation of the Unified Fund for the Performing Arts.
Cultural heritage, or "beni culturali" as conceived by the Italian administration, includes architectural monuments, museums, libraries and archives (the relatively young Ministry for Cultural Heritage and the Environment has been created by combining the former General Direction of Antiquities and Fine Arts with the State Archives). The funding of this sector still represents by far the most significant single item within the total sum of money allocated for cultural initiatives. In 1987, for instance, 60.7 per cent of the state's spending on culture was assigned to heritage-related activities, compared to 12.1 per cent spent on music, 3.5 per cent on theatres, and just 2.8 per cent on libraries.
The Ministry for Cultural Heritage and the Environment channels its activities through the Central Office for Environmental Architectural, Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Assets, which is in charge of:
The Central Office for Archives is in charge of the management of state archives and the supervision of private archives, with its attached Center for Photoreproduction and Restoring.
The Central Office for Libraries and Cultural Institutions is responsible for:
Apart from these specialized bodies, the Ministry also relies on the services of its advisory body, the National Council for Cultural and Environmental Assets, composed of appointed members, both representatives of the regions and individual specialists, who participate in cultural development planning.
The management of national libraries is also the Ministry's responsibility, while local and private libraries depend on their regional departments for culture (see above).
There are also professional organizations active in the field, like the National Union of Writers, Union of Book Publishers, Union of Booksellers and Union of Libraries.
The promotion of contemporary art and the purchase of works of living artists is within the mandate of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, and is effected through the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art and national and international events, such as the Biennale di Venezia or the Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte.
Professionals are grouped in organizations such as the Union of Visual Artists and the Union of Modern Art Dealers.
The cultural activities of the Ministry of the Performing Arts and Tourism include the promotion of the theatre, music and cinema. The Ministry provides subsidies for cultural programs and projects, but it does not directly run any particular institutions. The Ministry supervises and finances some 250 institutions and performing groups, including major opera houses and symphony orchestras, several prominent chamber orchestras, permanent public theatres as well as non-profit cooperative theatres, touring companies, commercial theatres, and smaller orchestras, dance companies, etc.
In pursuing its task of establishing greater coordination in the field, the Ministry was engaged in drafting the new general law dealing with the performing arts which was adopted in 1985. This law views the theatre, cinema, music and dance as one interdependent whole, and four sectorial laws that followed it clearly reflected this view. As a result of this law, a Unified Fund for the Performing Arts has been set up, providing for the growing needs of this sector, which, unlike the protection of heritage, is becoming more and more dependent on public funding.
Some public agencies and festivals involved in performing arts programs also depend on the Ministry:
The participation of the mass media, ensuring an adequate and extensive coverage of cultural events, is evident in most segments of Italy's cultural life. Some recent research shows that the extent of reporting on cultural events on Italian radio, TV, and especially in the newspapers is relatively high compared with some other European countries, including those with cultural policy models similar to the French model. Not only do newspapers and other media follow cultural events in their regular sections, but they also help to organize and sponsor specific cultural events of national and international significance and become directly involved in their promotion and marketing.
However, not all the sectors of culture have benefited from media involvement in the cultural field. The steadily rising influence of omnipresent television chains in Italy is a factor that is likely to change the behavior of potential consumers of traditional cultural forms. The cinema, for instance, is certainly a subsegment of the performing arts which has suffered most from the widening of TV audiences. During the Seventies, more than one quarter of the cinema-goers abandoned the practice, only to be followed by an even more dramatic drop of almost 60 per cent during the eighties. The phenomenon is to be ascribed to the liberalization of private channels in the late Seventies and the fact that there is no legal restriction concerning the amount of films shown on TV in Italy.
One part of the activities related to literary production (high-level book publishing, as defined by special laws on publishing dating from 1981 and 1987) is covered by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage. A 50 per cent bonus on loans is given by credit institutions to publishers who want to issue quality editions. Consequently, periodical publications whose contents are mostly cultural are eligible for tax reliefs and subsidies. The Ministry also helps to cover the costs of acquisition or translation of selected titles through Italian cultural institutes abroad and supports the appearance of Italian publishers at national and international book festivals and Italian book exports. The acquisition of books for national libraries and those belonging to Academies and Cultural Institutes is also supported.
Additional incentives, i.e., awards and subventions for writers, publishers, libraries, and associations, are provided by the General Directorate for Information, Publishing and Literary, Artistic and Scientific Property of the Office of the Prime Minister.
While books and newspapers were initially exempted from VAT, a reduced rate of 4% was introduced in 1990, thus diminishing the strongest public incentive to publishing.
Threatened by the extremely strong presence of TV networks, the print media benefit from numerous forms of state support. The state participates in sharing the costs of newsprint for newspapers and magazines, depending on their contents. Thus, several hundred newspapers and periodical publications receive this support. Support is also available for the publication of newspapers and periodicals abroad, the work of the press agencies, modernization and financial restructuring of enterprises, operation of broadcasting enterprises, press and information services, and the production of documentation for foreign audiences.
The written media benefit from reduced postal rates. Public sector businesses are obliged to spend at least 50 per cent of their publicity budgets on press advertising.
The national movie production (all titles that comply with a set of norms and are accepted for obligatory screening) automatically receives a partial reimbursement of the exploitation costs. About 150 movies of all duration categories are awarded different national prizes. The Ministry of Tourism and the Performing Arts, through the autonomous section for cinematographic ratings of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, offers several types of "regular" and "exceptional" merit ratings for films (the latter applicable to movies with artistic and cultural merits), as well as bonuses on loan interest. A special fund is available for the expansion and development of film production. There are also subsidies for economic restructuring (for companies engaged in movie production and distribution), for film publicity, and for the production of documentaries destined for foreign audiences.
A 50 per cent VAT reduction applies to cinema tickets, while various tax reductions apply to children's and quality movies.
Recordings of quality titles of classical music and valuable collections are supported by FONIT-CENTRA, a firm linked with the national broadcasting network. The VAT for releases is reduced by 50 per cent.
Indicators of attendance for theatre, opera and classical music performances between 1985 and 1990 show some small policy-influenced improvements (or at least non-deterioration) in audience participation, following the establishment of the Unified Performing Arts Fund (Fondo unico per lo spettacolo). The Fund made possible the doubling of state subsidies, thus helping to slow down ticket price increases and keeping the audiences. On the other hand, the prices of tickets for popular music kept rising, thus causing a substantial crisis in this sector in the same period. In general, audience figures in the late Eighties did not match the expansion of audience participation in the 1970, when a steady rise of subsidies, combined with the general "democratization" trend, caused an unparalleled interest of the public. Rather than boosting box-office receipts, the presence of the United Performing Arts Fund actually led to an excess of supply through new productions.
The initiatives for the "democratization" of cultural life that characterized the late Seventies and early Eighties found their most successful form in large-scale cultural events organized mainly in summer time, involving combined performances of different forms of art. It was the period of prosperity for massive cultural festivals lasting several weeks and representing selected (national and international) programs. Such events, with their diversified offer tailored to satisfy a broad range of tastes, managed to attract huge audiences. By obtaining a massive response of the public, they fulfilled their task of "democratization"; at the same time, they went counter to the concept of "decentralization," since they attracted large numbers of spectators from different areas to historic city centers.
In the light of everything said here, it can be concluded that Italian society is simultaneously strengthening the position of local bodies responsible for culture and reaffirming the importance of the central rule. The former is confirmed by significant legislative innovations (regional legislation in favor of local communities that further elaborates the long-term objectives of the national cultural policy), while the latter is evident in the continued efforts to enhance national values (patrimony, central all-Italian events, etc.).
The main governmental body involved in international cultural affairs in Italy is the General Directorate for Cultural Relations attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is responsible for the coordination of Italy's cultural activities abroad and contacts with international organizations (UNESCO, ICCROM, Council of Europe).
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also maintains a worldwide network of Italian Cultural Institutes, whose purpose is:
Both of the main ministries concerned with culture (Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Ministry of Tourism and the Performing Arts) are also engaged in the exchange of various cultural programs with foreign countries.
Italy has signed bilateral agreements with 53 European and non-European countries, covering various aspects such as cultural events, establishment of cultural centers, cooperation between cultural institutions and universities, exchange of specialists, bilateral promotion of the respective languages, fellowships, exchange of publications, and co-operation in archaeological research. There are also institutions attached to the European Community based in Italy dedicated to cultural cooperation, such as the European University Institute in Florence and the Center for Advanced European Studies at Urbino.
Accademia di Belle Arti
Via di Ripetta 222, 00186 Roma
Accademia di Brera
Via Brera 28, 20121 Milano
Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica
Via V. Bellini 16, 00198 Roma
Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
Via della Lungara 10, 00153 Roma
Accademia Nazionale di Danza
Largo Arrigo VII 5, 00153 Roma
Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Via Vittoria 6, 00187 Roma
Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani (ANCI)
Via dei Prefetti 46, 00186 Roma
Commissione Interregionale di Coordinamento per la Cultura
c/o Assessorato Cultura Regione Toscana
Via Farini 10, 50100 Firenze
Commissione Nazionale Italiana per l'UNESCO
Piazza Firenze 27, 00186 Roma
Commissione Nazionale per le Attrezzature Culturali
Piazza dei Servili 2, 00153 Roma
Ministero per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali
Via del Collegio Romano 27, 00186 Roma
Ufficio Centrale Beni Ambientali, Architettonici,
Archeologici, Artistici e Storici
Via S.Michele 20, 00153 Roma
Ufficio Centrale Beni Archivistici
Via Gaeta 8/a, 00185 Roma
Ufficio Centrale Beni Librari e Istituti Culturali
Via di Villa Sacchetti 3, 00197 Roma
Ministero del Turismo dello Spettacolo
Direzione Generale degli Affari Generali, il Turismo e lo Sport
Direzione Generale dello Spettacolo
Via della Ferratella 51, 00184 Roma
Ispettorato Istruzione Artistica
Via Carcani 61, 00153 Roma
Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione
Direzione Generale degli Scambi Culturali
Via Ippolito Nievo 35, 00153 Roma
Ministero degli Affari Esteri
Direzione Generale delle Relazioni Culturali
Piazzale della Farnesina, 00194 Roma
Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri
Direzione Generale delle Informazion, l'Editoria e la Proprietá letteraria
Via Po 16/a, 00198 Roma
Ministero delle Poste e Telecomunicazioni
Direzione Centrale Servizi Radio Elettrici
Viale Europa 160, 00144 Roma
Ministero delle Partecipazione Statali
Via Sallustiana 53, Roma
Ministero dei Lavori Pubblici
Piazzale Porta Pia, 00198 Roma
Biennale di Venezia
Ca' Giustinian, 30100 Venezia
CENSIS (Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali)
Piazza di Novella 2, 00199 Roma
Center International pour l'Education Artistique
Isole di San Giorgio Maggiore, 30124 Venezia
Centro Internazionale di Cultura per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli
Piazza della Vittoria 11/A/5, I-16121 Genova
Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia
Via Tuscolana 1520, 00173 Roma
CNR (Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche)
Piazzale Aldo Moro 7, 00185 Roma
CIDIM (Centro Italiano Iniziativa Musicale)
Via V. Colonna 18, 00193 Roma
Ente Autonomo Gestione Cinema
Via Tuscolana 1055, 00173 Roma
Ente Teatrale Italiano
Via in Arcione 98, 00187 Roma
Festival dei due mondi
Piazza Duomo, Spoleto
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea
Via dell Arte 13, 00144 Roma
Global Media Italia SRL
Via di Ripetta 141, 00186 Roma
ISPE (Istituto di Studi per la Programmazione Economica)
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 284, 00186 Roma
Istituto Agostino Gemelli
Largo A. Gemelli 1, 20100 Milano
Istituto Nazionale Architettura (INARCH)
Via Catalona 5, 00186 Roma
Istituto Nazionale Urbanistica (INU)
Via S.Caterina di Siena 46, 00186 Roma
Istituto per i beni artistici, culturali, naturali della Regione Emilia Romagna
Via Fiorini 28, 40121 Bologna
Quadriennale Nazionale d'Arte
Via Nazionale, 00184 Roma
Viale Mazzini 14, 00195 Roma
ANCSA (Associazione Nazionale per i Centri Storico-Artistici)
Piazza Oderisi 3
Gubbio - 06024 Perugia
Associazione Nazionale Cooperazione Culturale
Via Dalmazia 29, 00198 Roma
Fondazione Europea per la Cultura
Via di Monserrato, 152, 00186 Roma
Isola di San Giorgio, 30100 Venezia
Società Dante Alighieri
Piazza Firenze 27, 00186 Roma
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Bodo, Carla. Participation in Cultural Life in Italy. Papers presented to the European Round Table on Cultural Research, Moscow, April 1991. Zentrum für Kulturforschung in cooperation with C.I.R.C.L.E., ARCult, Bonn 1991, 335 pp.
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Osservatorio e osservatori. Milano, Osservatorio Culturale Lombardo, 1990
Papa, Marco & Alberto, Trezzi. Resources for Cultural Policies, IARD, Osservatorio Culturale Lombardo, Milano, 1992, 133 pp.
Rouet, François & Xavier, Dupin. Le soutien public aux industries culturelles. Paris, La Documentation française, 1991, 350 pp.
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This monograph is based on a sekection of data from the Culturelink Cultural Policies Data Bank, and on documents collected by the Documentation Center for Cultural Development and Cooperation, Culturelink, in Zagreb, Croatia. The original draft, written by Borko Augustin, has been revised by Carla Bodo, Secretary General of ISPE.