Portugal is located at South-West extreme of Europe and consists of the mainland and the islands: the Azores (Açores) and Madeira islands. It is 91,905 sq. km in area and has the population of almost 9.928 million people (1998). 36 per cent of the population is urban. Homogeneous Mediterranean people make up the majority population. A small African ethnic minority reminds of the Portugal’s colonial history. 97 per cent of the population belong to the Roman Catholic religion and the official language is Portuguese.

The polarity between a few major cities (Lisbon and Oporto in the first place) with abundant cultural facilities on one side and rural areas which remain peripheral and fairly isolated on the other, still marks the environment for cultural policy in Portugal. Formerly strictly centralized, the cultural field in Portugal is undergoing profound changes, not merely from the administrative point of view, but also in terms of global restructuring. The approach of the state is changing and more and more effort is being put into shaping a balanced and more decentralized system. The demand for a more even distribution of cultural initiatives and funding is influencing the development of a new model of regional division of the country.


The management of cultural affairs in Portugal is divided between central governmental institutions affiliated to the ministries, directly involved in the field and local executive bodies charged with applying the global national policy, but also enjoying a degree of independence in matters of finance and decision-making. The importance of local executive powers is reinforced by the relative vagueness of the structural model for public institutions dealing with culture, so that many decisions depend on the initiative of the actual personnel involved. The restructuring of the administrative model has been followed by a constant growth in public expenditure during the last decade, but also by a stronger presence of private sponsors, who are gaining considerable control over some sectors, notably in the field of cultural industries. Such growth is due to Portugal’s entry to the EEC in 1986, which changed life in all levels in the country, while culture was particularly affected. In the last few years Portugal has been present at many important cultural meetings or has been a host of many cultural events, such as the most recent one of the international importance, EXPO 1998.

These initiatives have caused a great promotion of cultural resources, as well as increased professionalization of cultural life.


2.1  Public and semi-public bodies

Central government

The highest public body in charge of cultural affairs in Portugal is the State Secretariat for Culture. It consists of the four following main branches:

·       Administration and Organization;

·       Promotion of Culture and Supervision of Copyrights;

·       Support for Events in all disciplines;

·       International Cultural Relations.

The State Secretariat for Culture also installed four regional self-governing institutions for culture outside Lisbon, in the north, in the central area, in Alentejo and the Algarve.

There are also other government agencies and institutions involved in cultural activities:

·       General Directorate for Buildings and National Monuments (Direcção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais) is attached to the Ministry of Public Works. Together with the Ministry of Culture, it is in charge of planning and managing the restoration and preservation of historic monuments;

·       State Secretariat for Tourism (Secretaria de Estado do Turismo), attached to the Ministry of Trade and Tourism;

·       Ministry of National Defence (Ministério da Defesa Nacional), responsible for military and similar museums and collections;

·       Ministry of Internal Administration (Ministério da Administração Interna) is in charge of coordinating the activities of local administrative bodies.

Regional and local governments

The support for culture on the regional level and its incorporation in the general technical and financial framework of regional development is assured by a network of local commissions covering the mainland territory. There are five commissions corresponding to the following regions:

·       Algarve,

·       Alentejo,

·       Centre,

·       North,

·       Lisbon and Tegus Valley.

Continental Portugal is divided into 335 municipalities (30 more are spread over Madeira and the Açores Islands) which are grouped in 18 districts. The local authorities exercise their mandates in the preservation of municipal culture and heritage. The district assemblies are authorized to establish and maintain local museums and to manage the research, conservation and presentation of archaeological, historical, folklore and artistic values.

Cultural affairs in the autonomous regions of Madeira and the Azores are managed by their local departments for culture, whose competencies correspond to those of the central government. The organizational model in these regions is roughly the following:

·       Regional Government of the Azores (Governo Regional dos Açores)

a)    Regional Secretariat for Education and Culture (Secretaria Regional de Educação e Cultura)

b)    Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs (Direcção Regional dos Assuntos Culturais)

·       Regional Government of Madeira (Governo Regional da Madeira)

a)              Regional Secretariat for Tourism and Culture (Secretaria Regional do Turismo e Cultura)

b)              Regional Directorate for Culture (Direcção Regional da Cultura).

2.2  Facilities and institutions

The Ministry of Culture also manages the activities of several other public bodies for coordination, national funds and councils:

·       Cultural Promotion Fund (Fundo de Fomento Cultural), in charge of financial subsidies for the development of different sectors of culture, providing scholarships and prizes for the arts,

·       Portuguese National Library and National Book Institute (Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro),

·       Portuguese Institute for Cinematography and the Audiovisual Arts (Instituto Português da Arte Cinematográfica e do Audiovisual),

·       Portuguese Cinemateca (Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema),

·       Portuguese Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Heritage (Instituto Português do Patrimonio Arquitectónico e Arqueológico),

·       Portuguese Symphony Orchestra (Orquestra Sinfónica Potuguesa),

·       Oporto Classical Orchestra (Orquestra Clássica do Porto),

·       Portuguese Institute of Museums (Instituto Português de Museus),

·       Drama Institute (Instituto das Artes Cénicas),

·       National Dance Company (Companhia Nacional de Bailado e da Dança),

·       International Academy of Portuguese Culture (Academia Internacional de Cultura Portuguesa),

·       National Academy of Fine Arts (Academia Nacional de Belas-Artes),

·       Portuguese Academy of History (Academia Portuguesa de História),

·       National Archives Torre de Tombo (Arquivo Nacional Torre de Tombo).

Five regional delegations for culture covering the Portuguese mainland and belonging directly to the administrative structure of the State Secretariat for Culture are the main factor in the decentralization of culture. The Regional Delegations of North, Centre, Lisbon, Alentejo and  Algarve (Delegação Regional do Norte, Delegação Regional do Centro, Delegação Regional de Lisboa, Delegação Regional do Alentejo, Delegação Regional do Algarve) coordinate development on the regional level and supervise projects outside the scope of the national cultural programme.

Non-governmental and mixed institutions

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a privately financed organization supporting a wide range of cultural institutions and programmes in all sectors. It coordinates a major network of libraries in the country, runs two museums, a symphony orchestra and a dance troupe. It manages the activities of research institutes and publishes a series of periodical reviews of art and literature. It also provides support for independent bodies and individuals, as well as scholarships for research in Portuguese culture. Internationally, it runs several cultural centres located in the main world capitals, dedicated exclusively to the promotion of the Portuguese language and culture.

The National Centre for Culture (Centro Nacional de Cultura) is a private association founded in 1945 and dedicated to the public promotion of cultural issues and safeguarding of cultural heritage. It aims to be a connecting link between those whose paths do not normally cross: old and young people, artists and businessmen, public and private sector.

The Serralves Foundation (Fundação da Serralves) in Oporto is a mixed institution dedicated to promoting cultural events.

The Discoveries Foundation (Fundação das Descobertas) in Lisbon is an official institution for the administration and support of cultural activities of the Belem Cultural Centre (Centro Cultural de Belem).

The Fundação Oriente is a private institution supporting and carrying out activities of a cultural, artistic and philathropic nature, having Portugal and Macao as privileged areas.


3.1  Financing of cultural activities

Financial resources to subsidize culture in Portugal are provided both on the central and local levels. Although still rather marginal in the total amounts spent on culture, the private sector continuously increases its share.

The Sponsorship Law has been adopted; sponsorship payments are tax deductible and are treated as normal business expenditure, provided the level of expenditure is reasonable in relation to the company's activities. According to the Law, maximum corporate relief for donations is 0.2 per cent of turnover, plus 50 per cent relief for donations in excess of this.

The three most important foundations are the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, the Fundação Oriente and the Fundação Luso-Americana para o desenvolvimento.

For example, the most important of the mentioned foundations, the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian ensures some 25 per cent of all the funding of the arts and culture in Portugal.

As far as it concerns the share of government cultural expenditure in 1995, it was as follows:


per cent

Instituto Português de Museus


Fundação das Descobertas


Instituto das Artes Cénicas (The Drama Institute)


Fundação Nacional de S. Carlos


Archives and Libraries


Library and Book Institute


Culture Promotion Fund


Architecture and Archaeology


General Directorate for Cultural Events


General Directorate for Services of Administration Organization


The Dance Institute, Art Academies, Cabinet for International Relations, Film and Audiovisual Art, regional delegations and Cabinet of the Secretary of State and Under-secretary of state all shared the expenditure from 0.4 to 2.7 per cent.

It is notable that most of the funds allocated to culture are spent on cultural heritage and the promotion of Portuguese discoveries.

3.2  Legislation

According to the Sponsorship Law, sponsorship payments are tax deductible and are treated as normal business expenditure.


4.1  Cultural heritage

The Portuguese Institute for Architectural and Archaeologial Heritage (Instituto Português do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico) is the main coordinating body dedicated to the safeguarding of cultural property.

The Portuguese Institute of Museums (Instituto Português de Museus) coordinates most public museums and cultural properties.

The Torre do Tombo National Archives is an institution in charge of most Portuguese archives and the Torre do Tombo Archives in Lisbon.

4.2  Cultural education and training


4.3  Performing arts

Two national theatres (Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos and Teatro Nacional D. Maria II) and the national ballet company (Companhia Nacional de Bailado e da Dança) are supervised by the State Secretariat for Culture. There are also a number of professional theatre companies and international theatre festivals, for instance, the International Festival of Iberic Expression Theatre held in Oporto.

4.4  Visual and fine arts

Besides the National Academy of Fine Arts and the National Fine Arts Society, there are also several regular events like the Biennale of Design and the Biennale in Vila Nova de Cerveira.

4.5  Literature and literary production

The Portuguese Institute for the National Library and Books (Instituto Português da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro) supervises the work of the National Library and promotes books, publishing and translation activities.

The other most important organizations involved in literature and literary production are: Associação Portuguesa de Escritores, Sociedade de Língua Portuguesa, Associação de Jornalistas e Homens de Letras do Porto, Associação Portuguesa de Editores e Livreiros and Associação Portuguesa dos Bibliotecários, Arquivistas e Documentalistas.

Two big Book Fairs are held annually (in Lisbon and in Oporto), organized by the Associação Portuguesa de Editores e Livreiros. 23 regional and local fairs are organized over the whole country.

4.6  Music

The governmental responsibility for music lies within the Direcção-Geral dos Espetáculos and the Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos.

Opera and music also benefit from special services of some private foundations.

There are also a number of musical groups, 20 associations, 10 academies and some 15 conservatories and music schools that offer various music degrees. Also, a number of music festivals are run all over the country.


5.1  Book publishing

The Portuguese Institute for the National Library and Books (Instituto Português da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro) is in charge of planning and implementing the measures to support publishing (its frame of reference does not include schoolbooks).

The Institute provides subsidies for the publication of quality titles in Portugal and for foreign translation and publication of Portuguese literature. The Institute also helps the literary associations with their programmes. Together with the Portuguese Publishers and Booksellers Association, it supports thirteen national book fairs and Portuguese participation in international book fairs.

A number of municipal libraries receive subsidies to enlarge their holdings and rebuild the facilities. The Institute awards grants to scholars studying the Portuguese language/literature/culture, and together with various other institutions, it supervises and finances several literary prizes.

5.2  Press

The main body responsible for managing subsidies for the information media is the Presidency of the Government. It also handles the distribution of official information, governmental publicity, documentation, and relations with journalists.

Upon the recommendation of a committee consisting of professionals and representatives of the Directorate, projects of technological modernization are chosen for subsidies. A similar procedure is followed in the selection of general information newspapers that receive subsidies. A reduction of telecommunication rates and ground travel expenses for journalists are also provided, and training programmes for journalists are supported.

5.3  Broadcasting and sound recording industry

In 1995, there were three transmission/broadcasting organizations in Portugal: Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP), Sociedade Indipendente de Comunicação (SIC) and Televisão Indipendente (TVI). RTP covers four channels: Canal 1, TV-2, RTP-Madeira and RTP-Açores. Canal 1 covers 98 per cent of the population, TV-2 80 per cent, RTP-Madeira 96,9 per cent and RTP-Açores 89,5 per cent. Canal 1 had 117 programming hours a week in 1995 and TV-2 94.

RTP also broadcasts at the international level.

Commercial revenues of the RTP amounted to 69 per cent and grants to 31 per cent in 1995.

Cultural share in programming is as follows: music accounts for 3,4 per cent of the RTP programme and arts/humanities/sciences for 3,7 per cent.

At the beginning of 1996, Portugal had four cable operator companies.

There were 3,134.000 TV households in Portugal in 1995 and 1,434.000 VCR households. 6 per cent of the population possessed double equipment of VCRs in the same year.

5.4  Cinema and film industry

The Institute for Cinematography and the Audiovisual Arts (Instituto Português da Arte Cinematográfica e Audiovisual) coordinates cultural initiatives in support of the national film production and distribution. The funds for its activities come from tax levies on the distribution of full-length films (with the exception of those classified as quality titles) and advertising films on TV and in the cinema. No other assigned government subsidies are allocated.

Limited subsidies are provided automatically for all national producers of full-length films, as additional aid to cover production costs. A national committee of appointed experts selects full-length films for state subsidies and loans. Dissemination of national films is also supported, as well as the rebuilding and construction of new cinemas and the Portuguese Cinemateca.

In 1995, there were 8 film production companies in Portugal.


The participation in cultural life, according to most recent surveys, shows that marked differences between urban and rural areas of the country still persist. Modern cultural life is more easily practised in cities, especially big ones, while the participation of the population in rural areas falls behind. However, the ever growing presence of the media is generally shaping a more home-based model of cultural consumption, making the same goods equally accessible for all the inhabitants, regardless of their environment and distance from, or proximity to, cultural facilities.

Public measures to stimulate participation and creativity have increased in the most recent period. This is particularly true with regard to young people, where the Institute for Youth and some other bodies have introduced significant incentives, such as ticket price reductions for a wide range of cultural events, stronger media-oriented marketing of cultural projects, etc.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros), acting through its General Directorate for Bilateral Cultural Relations (Direcção Geral das Relações Culturais Bilaterais) coordinates Portuguese cultural activities abroad. It manages the representation of Portugal in international bodies and makes arrangements for bilateral cultural agreements. It also supervises the granting of scholarships in accordance with these agreements. All international cultural activities are performed in close cooperation with the Cabinet for International Cultural Relations (Gabinete das Relações Culturais Internacionais) attached to the State Secretariat for Culture.

The international activities of the Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação) are aimed at promoting the study of the Portuguese language abroad. It has two bodies engaged in international cultural activities: Foreign Relations Office (Gabinete de Relaçoes Internacionais) and the Camões Institute (Instituto Camões).


8.1  Ministries, authorities and academies

Comissão Nacional da UNESCO
Av. Infante Santo, 45, 5o
1300 Lisboa
Tel. 60 49 42
Fax: 396 90 64

Direcção-Geral dos Espectáculos e das Artes
Praça dos Restauradores
1200 Lisboa

Direcção-Geral dos Edificios e Monumentos Nacionais
Praça do Comércio
1100 Lisboa

Gabinete de Relações Internacionais
Ministério da Educação
Av. 5 de Outubro, 35, 7o
1000 Lisboa
Tel: 3525882

Direcção-Geral da Educação de Adultos
Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros
Largo do Rilvas
1300 Lisboa

Direcção-Geral das Relações Culturais Bilaterais
Presidencia do Conselho de Ministros
Rua Prof. Gomes Teixeira
1300 Lisboa

State Secretariat for Culture
Palácio da Ajuda
1300 Lisboa

8.2  Central cultural institutions

Arquivos Nacionais
Torre do Tombo
Alameda da Universidade
1600 Lisboa
Tel.: 7937212; 7937221
Fax: 7937230

Centro Nacional de Cultura
Rua A.M. Cardoso, 68
1200 Lisboa
Tel.: 3466722; 3423829
Fax: 3428250

Cinemateca Portuguesa
Rua Barata Salgueiro, 39
1200 Lisboa
Tel.: 546279; 547509
Fax: 3523180

Instituto Português da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro
Rua Ocidental ao Campo Grande 83
1700 Lisboa
Tel.: 7950130
Fax: 7933607

Instituto Camões
Praça do Principe Real, 14-1°
P-1200 Lisboa
Tel.: 351 (1) 346 45 08
Fax: 351 (1) 347 20 49

Instituto Portugues da Arte Cinematográfica e do Audiovisual
Rua de S. Pedro de Alcântara, 45, 1o
1200 Lisboa
Tel.: 3462051; 3468485
Fax: 3472777

Instituto Português de Museus
Palácio Nacional da Ajuda
Calçada da Ajuda
1300 Lisboa
Tel.: 3647213; 3646926

Instituto Portugues do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico
Palácio Nacional da Ajuda
Calçada da Ajuda
1300 Lisboa
Tel.: 3646926; 3647087
Fax: 3637047

8.3  Associations

Federação Portuguesa das Colectividades de Cultura e Recreio
Rua de Palma, 256-A
1000 Lisboa

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Av. de Berna, 45
1000 Lisboa
Tel.: 7935131
Fax: 7935139

Fundação Oriente
Rua do Salitre, 66-68
1200 Lisboa
Tel.: 352 70 02
Fax: 352 70 42


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Fisher, Rod. Briefing Notes on the Organization of Culture in EEC Countries: Portugal. London, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1990.

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* This monograph is based on a selection of data from the Cultural Policies Data Bank and on the documents collected by the Documentation Centre for Cultural Development and Cooperation, Culturelink. The original draft, written by Borko Augustin, has been revised by the Cabinet for International Cultural Relations, State Secretariat for Culture, Portugal. It has also been revised by Daniela Angelina Jelincic, Culturelink, IMO in 1999.