De Raad voor Cultuur is het wettelijke adviesorgaan van de regering en het parlement op het terrein van kunst, cultuur en media. De raad is onafhankelijk en adviseert, gevraagd en ongevraagd, over actuele beleidskwesties en subsidieaanvragen.

Summary: ‘Culture closer to home’

On the request of Ingrid van Engelshoven, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, the Council for Culture presents its recommendations regarding the reform of the Netherlands’ systems for culture by 2021: 'Culture closer to home'. The recommendations also include the Council’s response to an earlier request from the minister regarding the enhancement of the public domain.

Over the past three years, the Council has been examining the Netherlands’ national cultural life and issued ten sector-specific recommendations. The Council notes that the Netherlands’ cultural sector already achieves high standards, but that there is still enormous potential to enrich the subsidized cultural sector. Much has been achieved and continues to be achieved on the stages and at the festivals of the Netherlands, as well as in its cinemas, museums and other cultural facilities. However, in order to do full justice to the high standards achieved by our numerous artists, creatives and cultural institutions, reform is needed with respect to the nation’s system of governance for culture.

Why reform is needed

A number of observations have led the Board to this conclusion. In the 'Culture for city, country and region' study, the Council introduced four objectives which it believes should be addressed by cultural policy. According to these objectives, cultural policy should ensure that talent is developed in every discipline and in every genre within every discipline (objective 1), provide a cultural offering that can appeal to all Dutch people (objective 2), provide a multiform cultural offering which not only values what already exists but also embraces the new (objective 3), and provide a safe haven where culture can reflect society in all its diversity and polyphony (objective 4).This requires an opening up of policy to make it more generous to the wide range of artists and creatives who are resident in the Netherlands. It also implies a more active role for government in promoting the vitality of the employment market in the cultural sector.

In addition, the Council believes that national cultural policy could make significant strides by taking account of the cultural developments that are occurring throughout the country. To this end, central government needs to collaborate more closely with the provincial and municipal tiers of government. In its review, the Council proposed the creation of 'city cultural regions' throughout the country to act as partners for central government in relation to national policy on culture. These city cultural regions would provide comprehensive infrastructure for culture: basic facilities (for education, participation and easy access routes to culture), chain facilities (locations for the development of talent and genre, and for presentation purposes) and high-level facilities (high-quality cultural offering with an (international) flavour and a national and international reach in terms of audiences).

In the prelude to this advice, fifteen candidate city cultural regions submitted their culture profiles to the minister, in which they formulated their cultural offering, plans and ambitions. The Council drew inspiration from these profiles when drawing up these recommendations. It should also be noted, however, that not all the candidate city regions are sufficiently large or have adequate facilities to function as independent city cultural regions in partnership with central government. The Council therefore proposes that these regions, with their distinct cultural profiles, should seek to forge relationships with neighbouring regions, with a coordinating role played by the umbrella province or by one of the larger municipalities involved. This should lead to a consolidation into eleven city cultural regions, which could then act as full-fledged partners for central government in relation to cultural policy.

Priorities for the reform of cultural policy

Guided by the four objectives of cultural policy and based on its analysis of contemporary cultural life, the Council identifies the following priorities for cultural policy and the system of cultural infrastructure, with effect from 2021:

The renewal of the cultural offering

National cultural policy should be expanded to include many more cultural disciplines and genres. The more traditional artistic forms that already receive direct funding from central government as part of the Basic Cultural Infrastructure (BIS) system, continue to merit the best possible support in order to ensure their quality and development at the national and international levels. However, the focus of cultural policy should be widened by opening up the BIS to other genres and disciplines, such as design, fashion, e-culture, urban arts, pop music, musical or contemporary music. This would strengthen the position of those genres and disciplines, drive up standards of artistic quality, better reflect the varied tastes and preferences of the general public, and enhance the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

The Council sees development institutions (such as production houses for talent and/or genre development, 'talent hubs', design labs) as valuable places for the production, development and presentation of new genres, artists and creatives, and it sees festivals as providing a platform for those genre(s) or discipline(s). In addition, the Council recommends the creation of a nationwide system of presentation institutions for the visual arts, design and cross-over genres. Some production institutions would also be eligible for this role. Many such new initiatives may evolve within the city cultural regions, where they would have their roots but could subsequently grow to become institutions of national importance. It is therefore important to look carefully at distribution at the nationwide level and at the embedding of the new BIS institutions in the cultural infrastructure of the city cultural regions.

A number of municipal and provincial museums also deserve a financial contribution for the work that they carry out in promoting national and international cultural interests and building their public profile. There are examples of this in the field of exhibitions, education, reaching out to new audiences and social activities.

The six national cultural funds will play an essential role in widening the cultural offering and creating new development opportunities for artists and creatives. The Council is pleased to note that newer genres and interdisciplinary art forms are increasingly being supported by the funds. Simpler procedures and the establishment of concrete collective contact points in the city cultural regions should make it easier for artists and creatives to access these funds.

Greater scope for development, creativity and specialization

In addition to production and collection activities, central government should also take responsibility for genre and talent development, creativity and specialization among artists and creatives. The expansion of the BIS to include development institutions, presentation institutions and festivals, as outlined above, will be one way of contributing to this goal. These categories of institutions will foster the development of talent and genre, as well as professionalization among creative, production and performance artists and creatives, and often they will form a bridge between artists and the public.

The talent development role of production institutions within the BIS should be organized more effectively. Under the reformed system, cultural institutions would be able to choose whether they see a role for themselves in talent and genre development, repertoire renewal and other forms of specialization. Institutions that respond positively to this call would be able to apply for an additional grant over and above their basic allocation in relation to such activities.

The city cultural regions would be charged with fostering the development of talent through their 'testing grounds' in this field, by including development locations in their structural cultural policy and by playing a coordinating role with regard to talent development in their region.

The cultural funds should continue and, where necessary, enhance their programmes for development and new creation. The funds would also continue to play a role in supporting production houses and presentation institutions outside the BIS. 

A more inclusive policy, a wider reach

The Council believes that it is important for publicly funded cultural activities to benefit the widest possible audiences in the Netherlands; or, in other words, that cultural policy should be inclusive. By opening up the national system of cultural governance to a wider range of disciplines, genres, artists and creatives, a wider reach and more diverse audience can be achieved.

The Council calls on the cultural sector to minimize barriers to visitors wherever possible by adjusting their offering, pursuing a differentiated pricing policy, enhancing their marketing strategies and making targeted efforts to reach a wider and more diverse audience. The improved Cultural Diversity Code should focus more on inclusiveness. The Council proposes the application of this code as a requirement for government grants. This means that institutions would have to comply with the four ‘P’s of the code: an inclusive approach to public (audiences), programming, personnel and partners.

Cultural education in schools and cultural institutions, both within and outside the education system, is essential in order to familiarize (new) audiences with the cultural offering, raise awareness and encourage participation. Active and receptive cultural education merits a central position in the new education curriculum.

The same applies to opportunities for cultural participation. These should be clearly represented in every city cultural region. And here, too, a wide range of disciplines and genres should be involved.

The Council advises the minister to introduce more differentiation into the own-income requirement, because this is sometimes at odds with the ambition of reaching new audiences. A new balance must be achieved between the need to address a wider and more diverse audience with the subsidized offering and the need for own-income and audience numbers.

Furthermore, the Council underlines the need for governments and funds to establish committees for monitoring and assessment which are diverse in terms of their members’ cultural origin, level of educational attainment, expertise, experience, age, gender and position within the arts.

Due to the importance of better knowledge of current and potential audiences, the Council recommends exploring the possibility of establishing a new national support institution to collect, analyse and share public data. For cultural institutions, the collection of audience or attendance data will become a requirement for continued funding.

A vibrant employment market in the cultural sector

National cultural policy should promote a healthier employment market in the cultural sector with the goal of maintaining salaries in line with rest of the economy. To this end, the Council recommends that the Fair Practice Code become a requirement for continued funding for institutions that receive funding support from the government, cultural funds and/or government bodies within the city cultural regions. A 'comply or explain' clause should be applied for this purpose. Remuneration for self-employed persons in the cultural sector requires particular attention. This explicitly involves promoting the right mentality, whereby fair practice becomes the ‘new normal’ and the sector as a whole makes a collective effort to adopt good employment and commissioning practices. The sector will need to take firm action in relation to the social dialogue that has been initiated, leading to concrete arrangements on collective agreements and standard rates, for instance.

The new system of governance for culture

Based on the priorities for the new policy outlined above, the Council presents the following proposals for the review of the system of government-funded cultural activities:

Funding that falls under the Basic Cultural Infrastructure system 2021-2024 (BIS):


Chain facilities

High-level facilities


Performance arts, concerts (music)

Up to 8 music ensembles, including up to 4 symphony orchestras


Performance arts, theatre and drama

Maximum of 15 performance art companies (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)


Youth performance arts, theatre and drama

Maximum of 15 youth performance art companies (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)



Maximum of 15 municipal and provincial museums (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)


Presentation establishments (visual arts, design, cross-overs)

Maximum of 15 presentation establishments (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)


Development establishments (whole cultural sector)

Maximum of 15 development establishments (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)


Festivals (whole cultural sector)

Maximum of 15 festivals (maximum of 3 per city cultural region)

Whole cultural sector

4 symphony orchestras

1 orchestra for pop and jazz music

maximum of 7 ensembles / choirs (various genres)

1 theatre company

1 company for adult and youth theatre

1 company for opera and dance

1 opera company

1 dance company

1 company for adult and youth dance

1 company for youth theatre and youth dance

1 multidisciplinary performing arts festival

1 festival for pop music

3 film festivals

1 design festival

5 postgraduate institutions


Supporting institutions

Whole cultural sector

5 sectoral supporting institutions

1 supporting institution for concerts and stage performance arts

4 supporting institutions for literature

1 supporting institution for the creative sector (partly funded by the Heritage Act)

1 supporting institution for film (partly funded by the Heritage Act)



Funded from the Heritage Act 2021 and beyond



25 museums with a collection for which the government is responsible


Supporting institutions

1 supporting institution for heritage, 1 supporting institution for the creative sector (partly funded from the BIS), 1 supporting institution for film (partly funded from the BIS) 


The BIS would be expanded to include a number of cultural institutions with strong regional roots but which are of national importance due to the areas in which they are active ('chain facilities'). A large number of these institutions are already included in the existing BIS system. Additionally, the Council would select institutions that contribute to the development, production and presentation of artists and genres without (sufficient) current representation: development institutions, presentation institutions, some producer institutions and festivals. These institutions would require co-funding from one or more government bodies within the relevant city cultural region. In addition, the BIS will be expanded to include municipal and provincial museums of national significance. Within this category, the Council also recommends that central government should be actively involved in the City of Amsterdam’s initiative to establish a (museum) facility for the history of slavery.

The Council recommends that a separate category should be distinguished within the BIS system for what we referred to as high-level facilities in the 'Culture for city, country and region' review: government-subsidized cultural institutions that are particularly prominent at the national and/or international level. The Minister may consider extending extra confidence to these institutions from central government, by providing them with a funding plan for two four-year periods. This role would include increased responsibilities with respect to the cultural sector. A number of nationally or internationally prominent institutions are already represented within the current BIS, including a number of orchestras and performance art groups, festivals and post-graduate institutions. The Council would recommend the inclusion of more such institutions, including some of the music ensembles which are now subsidized by the Performing Arts Fund.

Within the system of supporting institutions, the Council recommends setting up a new administrative body which would be responsible for preservation, management, access, debate and reflection within the performing arts. In addition, the Council advises exploring the possibility of including an additional supporting function for public research within the BIS system. The Council also recommends the inclusion of an additional institution in the field of promoting reading, as well as a supra-sector support institution in the field of professionalization and entrepreneurship. The supporting institutions in the field of cultural policy and digitization should be strengthened. The research function of the knowledge centre for cultural education and participation would be integrated into the knowledge centre for cultural policy.

Changes to the Heritage Act

The Council advises expanding the Heritage Act to include the public tasks of museums that are already financed under this legislation with respect to collection costs and accommodation costs. The Council would be given legal responsibility for monitoring the entire range of duties undertaken by these museums. These museums would then no longer be funded through the BIS system.

Wider grant categories

The categories of theatre company, dance company and opera company under the BIS system will be discontinued to create more scope for interdisciplinary developments. There will be one unified category for chain facilities in the performance arts. The category of youth theatre company will be expanded in the BIS system to a category for chain facilities for all disciplines within youth performance arts. The funding allocation for performance arts and youth performance arts requires more customization using a fixed basic allocation supplemented with additional grant allocations for additional tasks.

Changes to the system of grant allocation, evaluation and accountability

The grants system – the procedures for applications, assessment and accountability – will be changed in order to reduce barriers to new entrants to the BIS and to enable a broader and more diverse offering to take shape. This will require more flexible regulations, the coordination of application procedures between central government, government bodies within the city cultural regions and the funds, and, in addition, assessment by various assessment and monitoring committees. Governments, councils and funds would need to apply standards to ensure inclusiveness within those committees.

Where grant allocations and performance requirements are subject to more customization, stricter requirements will apply for the application of the Culture Code of Governance, the Fair Practice Code and a new code to be developed to replace the Cultural Diversity Code (which will ensure inclusiveness). This is expected to contribute to a stronger, more vital cultural sector.

New policy instruments

The Council proposes two new policy instruments to encourage developments in the cultural sector. Firstly, a programme fund would be established for the forthcoming arts planning period, which will give the city cultural regions an incentive to develop further. This fund is intended to strengthen the societal roots of cultural life in the city cultural regions. It would be funded half by central government and half by one or more of the government bodies participating in the relevant city cultural region. In addition to this fund, a sector-wide revolving fund would be established to enable cultural producers in all disciplines and genres to take more artistic risks.

Focus areas for the city cultural regions

The Council encourages city cultural regions to continue developing and to use the four objectives of cultural policy for guidance when developing their plans. For this, it is essential that they – and municipalities outside the city cultural regions – strengthen their basic facilities in the field of culture (for example in the field of cultural education and participation). They can also further foster the development of talent by providing better support for chain facilities, cooperating with the funds and developing their testing grounds. In partnership with the national-level culture funds, they can contribute to improving the balance between supply and purchasing grants, particularly in the performance arts. The city cultural regions should provide funding for institutions in their region that wish to be eligible as chain facilities under the BIS.

Focus areas for the national culture funds

The proposed changes will have some consequences for the national culture funds. In particular, the BIS system will be opened up to a number of institutions receiving multi-year funding allocations, which the Council would include as chain facilities and which are currently still subsidized chiefly by the funds. This does not mean that the Council no longer sees a place within the funds for institutions that receive multi-year funding allocations. For institutions whose core activities consist primarily of creating artistic products or institutions that specialize in a very specific area within their discipline, the funds would remain the designated funding partners.

The Council would argue that institutions whose activities have a high degree of continuity and which also engage in certain activities that go beyond their direct artistic activities with a high degree of continuity, should be supported by the funds on a more reliable basis. This support should not be measured by the number of activities, but using a multi-year grant allocation that is tailored to their functioning. The Council believes that it is by this route that the funds can play a role in encouraging innovation and development, in addition to providing project grants and their role in the cultural debate and in expanding knowledge.

The Council proposes that the national culture funds, in partnership with the city cultural regions, play a linking role in the field of talent development and improving the balance between supply and purchasing grants, particularly in the performance arts.

 Investment agenda

The Council notes that the government has specifically recognized the value of culture and the importance of investing in it. This is demonstrated by the €80 million that will be made available for culture from 2020 onwards on a structural basis. The freely available €28 million provides scope for investment in the system. The Council sees opportunities for investing in the expansion and renewal of the offering, building stronger links with the general public in all its diversity, and improved coherence between local, regional and national policy. It believes that investment is necessary in a number of institutions which are already funded in order to address the most urgent bottlenecks. The Council also argues for additional investment to tackle the issues of the employment market agenda and the audio-visual sector. The amount to be invested freely for the period 2021-2024 will not be sufficient to remove all bottlenecks, either now or in the future. It is possible, however, to promote the vitality of the system and its links to new audiences and to the regions.

The Council advises the government to make an incidental investment of €15 million in a training fund in 2020, and €5 million to establish a revolving fund. In structural terms, the Council would argue for investment amounting to up to €34 million for the 2021-2024 cultural period. For the employment market agenda, the Council advocates €15 million, of which €10 million can be financed through an alternative use of funds for the ‘B’ lists in the cultural funds. In addition, the Council recommends investing €9.5 million in the strengthening that is required across the sector, €10 million in widening and renewal and €9.5 million in improving coherence between national and municipal and provincial cultural policies.

The Council also argues for investment in the audio-visual sector. The development and production of high-quality films, series, documentaries and animations, including productions specifically aimed at children, merits further strengthening. In its sector-specific advice, ‘The prospect of so much more', the Council recommended the introduction of levies for the audio-visual sector. The same argument is reiterated here. It is expected that, depending on percentage and indexation, the levies could yield a substantial amount of between €20 and €30 million. In view of the importance of high-quality and accessible Dutch-language film and media productions, the Council recommends that, if the levy is not introduced quickly enough, other methods of financing this additional funding for the audio-visual sector should be sought. The Council suggests a total amount of €9.5 million in this regard.

Based on insights from the sector-specific recommendations, the Council takes the view that a substantial additional investment will be required in a future period, in addition to the current government’s investment of €80 million. This would be required to achieve a fully inclusive system for all artists and residents of the Netherlands. In its investment agenda for the future, the Council would emphasize the importance of cultural education, following up on the employment market agenda, collection management, a sector-wide digital strategy, supplementing the purchasing fund and expanding the revolving fund.

The Council believes that a substantial additional investment in culture would also be fully justified from a social perspective. This is, first of all, due to the intrinsic value that art and culture represent. But it is certainly also because of the unifying potential of culture in a society where dividing lines are becoming more marked and the economic value of creativity and imagination is becoming increasingly important. Investment in art and culture means investing in the roots of our society, as well as the skills that we need to sustain us. Culture still represents only a very modest item within national public spending. The Council is currently unable to specify an amount that would more accurately quantify its future ambitions but will be happy to advise on this at a later date.