Committing to Culture: Arts Funding in France and Britain

Franco-British Council,
01 January 2000, France

The first section of this comparative study provides an outline of the history of the funding of cultural activity in the two countries, with a marked emphasis on the recent past, the 1980s and 1990s. The authors conclude that the two systems have moved closer to one another but that there remain marked differences between them, from which, by examining the other, each can learn. The funding of theatre is briefly considered as a case study of the different approaches. The second section of the study examines the two systems of support in more detail, characterising the French system as having greater ministerial control than the British, being more artist-centred, with the majority of a much larger amount of funding going to a fairly small number of organisations. The British system is characterised as less centralised, being more audience and participation oriented and producing greater cultural diversity. Sub-sections deal with each of these areas and also consider the regional dimension, private sector support - which is greater in Britain, capital investment and the cultural relationship of the capital cities of London and Paris to the rest of their respective countries. The conclusion concentrates on the funding support in each country and the governmental systems established to deliver it. France spends 60% more on revenue support for the arts than Britain, and also has a tradition of spending more on capital projects. Both capital cities receive a disproportionate amount of funding. Despite moving somewhat closer to one another the respective place in relation to government which culture occupies remains different, with a less central position in Britain reflected in the respective funding levels which broadly show France spending almost twice as much as Britain on culture and the arts.