Outdated laws in the field of culture, delays in adopting new legislation a lack of transparency, insufficient budget for cultural activity, partitocracy in cultural institutions – election of leaders based on political affiliation rather than expertise, a lack of tax benefits for investment in culture, poor regulations of the art market, vague criteria for the award of funds finance in ‘open competition’, a lack of long term financing for projects and institutions, marginalisation of productions in the independent cultural scene. These were the key problems identified at an informal meeting on February 22nd, with representatives of a dozen of cultural institutions and organisations from Belgrade. The meeting was hosted by BIRN as part of the BICCED project (Balkan’s Initiative for Cultural Cooperation, Exchange and Development), which is supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans.
Participants also pointed out the division amongst key cultural organisations and opinion-formers, making joint activity or collective pressure on government and funding bodies almost impossible, and the chronic lack of interest from the media in culture in general and the problems faced by cultural organisations.
Among the participants were Aleksandar Lazarevic from the Centre for Study in Cultural Development (ZAPROKUL), an institution which itself works in the field of cultural policy, Darka Radosavljevic from the Independent Artistic Association Remont, Dragoslav Krnajski from the Initiative committee of the members of Association of Fine Artists of Serbia, Sladjana Novakovic form the Rende publishing house, Jelena Knezevic from the Bitef Theatre and BITEF festival, Jelena Vesic from the Prelom collective and informal network of independent organisations Other Scene (Druga scena), Ana Lukovic from the Ebart Media Documentation, as well as Vesna Milosavljevic from the SEEcult.org portal for culture, one of BIRN’s partners in the BICCED project.
The meeting was held as part of the preparatory phase of the BICCED project, which provides for training of journalists from the region of Western Balkans in analytical reporting on cultural policies. Three separate groups of journalists will be trained over the course of the three year programme. The issues discussed by these key opinion-formers in the cultural scene, will serve as a basis for defining the editorial strategy of the projects and topics looked into by the journalists engaged in the project.
A similar meeting was recently held in Sarajevo, and others are planned in Pristina, Skopje and Tirana to provide a region-wide view in preparation for a conference on cultural policies and media to be held on April 20th in Skopje. The first group of ten journalists chosen for the programme will attend the conference alongside experts and practitioners in the field of culture in the region.