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Council of Europe

Culturelink review, no.28/August 1999 - contents - imprint - archive

Cultural Policies Research and Development Unit

Policy Notes

The Research and Development Unit of the Cultural Policy and Action Division of the Council of Europe has launched a new series of publications - the Policy Notes. These are synoptic or comparative reports on topical cultural policy issues or ongoing projects and research. The series is intended for cultural policy makers, administrators, researchers and others interested in cultural co-operation in Europe.

The following titles have been published so far:

No. 1. François Rouet: VAT and book policy: impacts and issues (1999) - ISBN 92-871-3707-2

This policy note examines the role played by VAT (value added tax) as a political instrument in favour of the book industry. Given the positive impact of reducing VAT on publishing and reading, the note recommends a preferential treatment of the book industry by governments. The note also highlights the role played by books in promoting a creative society and supporting a lively and pluralist democracy.

Also available in French: ISBN 92-871-3706-4

No. 2. Ken Robinson: Culture, creativity and the young: developing public policy (1999) - ISBN 92-871-3857-5

The future of Europe is in the hands of its young people: their ambitions, sensibilities and values are the major foundations on which European development will be built. Young people are living in a world of immense and increasing complexities, a world that is changing faster than at any time in history. In planning for the future, national governments have an interest in enabling young people to participate in these changes positively and constructively. This note argues that it is essential for governments to frame coherent policies and programmes to support the creative and cultural development of all young people, and it identifies the central questions and issues which will define these policies and the principles on which they might be based.

Will be available in French: ISBN 92-871-3856-7

No. 3. Ursula Rellstab: Culture - a way forward. Culture and neighbourhoods: an action-research project in urban Europe (1999) - ISBN 92-871-3859-1

Local culture is a rich source of information, which has much to say about the future shape of city development. The action-research project of the Council of Europe 'Culture and Neighbourhoods' was carried out in eleven European cities from Copenhagen to Athens and from Bilbao to Sofia. Its findings highlight the points of convergence between cultural and urban policy making and the importance of this alliance for the future of cultural diversity, social solidarity and civil society.

Also available in French: ISBN 92-871-3858-3 and German: ISBN 92-871-3860-5

No. 4. François Matarasso & Charles Landry: Balancing act: 21 strategic dilemmas in cultural policy (1999) - ISBN 92-871-3862-1

A tightrope walker is always conscious of the two ends of his balancing pole, continually making adjustments to preserve that elusive point of balance. This policy note looks upon one of the most complex areas of modern government, the development and management of cultural policy, as a kind of balancing act. It presents twenty-one strategic dilemmas which may help policy-makers and planners to position or reposition themselves in order to reach the ideal point of balance.

Will be available in French: ISBN 92-871-3861-3 (Also available in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Romanian, Slovenian)

Copies can be ordered from: Cultural Policies Research and Development Unit, Council of Europe, F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France; fax: +33 (0) 388 413782; e-mail: decsrdu@coe.int; http://culture.coe.fr

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Freedom to Publish (on demand) our Cultural Diversity

The Council of Europe has recently published a leaflet entitled Freedom to publish (on demand) our cultural diversity, elaborated with the aim to promote the Council's activity started in 1998 as a cultural response to the need of literary creators to overcome barriers of poor distribution, lack of capital in publishing houses and an insufficient network of bookshops. Print-on-demand is a relatively new printing system based on digital technology, opening new possibilities within publishing, especially for small print runs and limited editions, thus representing a vital tool in the promotion of cultural diversity and the distribution of literary creativity. The print-on-demand system is revolutionising the publishing world by allowing limited print runs, low premastering costs, on demand production, reprints at a reasonable cost, and short delivery times. As part of the Council's Electronic Publishing, Books and Archives project which addresses key issues in legislation and policies concerning the development of the electronic publishing, books and archives sectors and provides practical grass-roots support to professionals and advice to governments and policy-makers, the objectives of Print-On-Demand (PROD) - Europe are:

  • to establish a network of print-on-demand actors (authors, translators, publishers, booksellers, librarians) with a view to fostering European cultural diversity within these areas;
  • in collaboration with the New Book Economy (NBE) project, to create awareness among book professionals of the need to adjust the book chain for publications in limited print runs; and
  • to trigger experiences of adaptation of the book/electronic publishing chain to the needs of languages and cultures of limited diffusion.

During the past year a print-on-demand network was set up involving print on demand authors and publishers from France, Italy and Sweden. A demonstration activity is planned for the Göteborg Book Fair, to take place in September 1999 as well as other major European book fairs, and the publication of best practice manuals and handbooks on print-on-demand aimed at creators, content producers and all other links of the book chain is envisaged.

For further information on print-on-demand activities within the Council of Europe, please contact: Mr. Giuseppe Vitiello, Special Advisor, Electronic Publishing, Books, and Archives Project, Cultural Policy and Action Division, Directorate of Education, Culture and Sports, Council of Europe, F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France; tel.: +33-3-88 41 26 08; fax: +33-3-88 41 37 82; e-mail: giuseppe.vitiello@coe.fr; http://culture.coe.fr/bookarch

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New Information Technologies

Public Access and Freedom of Expression in Cultural Institutions
Report from Helsinki

A Culturelink Network representative was recently invited to take part at the Council of Europe conference entitled New Information Technologies - Public Access and Freedom of Expression in Cultural Institutions, held in Helsinki, Finland, on 10 and 11 June 1999. The conference was part of the Council's New Information Technologies Action Plan, developed as a response to the recommendations of the Second Summit held in October 1997, at which the Heads of State and Government of the 40 member states of the Council of Europe established new technologies as a priority for the Council's cultural policy and action.

As the Summit resolved 'to develop a European policy for the application of the new information technologies, with a view to ensuring respect for human rights and cultural diversity, fostering freedom of expression and information and maximising the educational and cultural potential of these technologies', the work plan foresaw the preparation of a Council of Europe Declaration on a European Policy for New Information Technologies (adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 7 May 1999 at its 104th Session in Budapest), as well as the development and validation of guidelines for a cultural policy for the information society to be discussed at four international meetings (on Professional Profiles and the New Information Technologies; Public Access and Freedom of Expression; Media, Creativity and Cultural Diversity; and Media Literacy, Creativity and the Young).

The main aim of the Helsinki conference was to allow civil servants, professionals from the cultural and industry sectors and artists to discuss and comment on the proposed Helsinki Charter on Public Access to and Freedom of Expression in Networked Information: Principles for European Cultural Policy, as drafted by Prof. Paul Sturges of the Department of Information Science at the Loughborough University. The forum served as platform for the validation of the Charter, helping develop policy principles of the Council of Europe. Within the context of public access points for networked information and communication by cultural institutions, applying principles of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information, the Charter is concerned with principles of access, young people's access, access in specialized institutions, the management of public access points, disruptive use, filtering, content rating, warning pages, and Internet use policies.

The discussion on the contents of the Charter emphasized the necessity of broadening the interpretation of public access beyond libraries, as well as the need for digitization of culturally specific content, ensuring cultural diversity. Points debated included issues regarding the need for protection and guidance, liability for illegal content and responsibility for offensive or harmful content, public access to information vs. access to public information, recommendations for publicly as opposed to privately funded institutions, safety and censorship problems, filtering or blocking access to information, the development of rating systems, the right to electronic literacy, taking into account aspects of creativity and quality of content.

Applying to cultural institutions, the Recommendation aims to offer policies to correct the widening digital divide between digital haves and have-nots in the education and learning driven knowledge society currently developing from the technologically driven information society. The Charter presents codes of conduct, not legislation, promoting a transition from regulation of bad practices to self-regulation, recommending good practices. It is the essential responsibility of those in charge of public access points to give individuals the fullest possible freedom to seek knowledge. Thus, managers of public access points must cope with the confrontation between this basic principle on which public access is provided, and the anxieties arising in the public from the nature of some of the content.

The conference also offered insight into experiences and professional practices through a session devoted to the technological evolution and its effects on public access, as well as a session on public access in the information society, discussing knowledge creation and transfer, reproduction of information resources, political and technological conditions of public access in the age of connectivity, and affordability and accessibility of information. The session entitled Towards a New Access Economy centered around principles for safeguarding public access and freedom of expression in the digital future through new public services for a new access economy.

The Closing Session summarized all panel discussions, stressing foremostly the need for a more positive redrafting of the proposed Charter, emphasizing and encouraging more strongly the positive side of a culturally oriented approach to new technologies and focusing the document on universal access, having in mind the affordability, availability and usability of public access points.

Consultations will continue at the following conference in the series envisaged to result in responses to the European policy action plan for maximising the cultural and educational potential of new information technologies, entitled Cultural Work in the Information Society, to be held in Rome, Italy, in October 1999.