National budget 2016:

Culture budget targets both innovation and tradition

The Government’s cultural policy is aimed at promoting a cultural sphere based on local participation. Culture is where the people are. Delegating authority to and strengthening the regions will thus continue to comprise an important part of the cultural policy framework in years to come.

“2016 is the year in which our cultural policy implementation is clearly reflected in the budget. In our first two years we have ticked off many of the points set out in the Sundvolden Declaration for the cultural sphere,” says Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey.

“Our cultural policy is based on the unique intrinsic value that culture has for the individual. It is a key objective to promote a rich cultural life marked by diversity, freedom and integrity.”

“The Government recognises that civil society and the market alone will be unable to achieve this. Therefore we will maintain strong state funding of the cultural sphere in the years ahead as well,” Ms Widvey states.

The Government has recommended bringing the allocation to the cultural budget up to NOK 13 billion in the proposed national budget. In 2015 one-year grants were provided for the preparation of the Youth Olympic Games and the 2015 Church of Norway elections. Correcting for these allocations, the budget increase amounts to NOK 566.3 million or 4.5 per cent.

In addition, the introduction of a zero-rate VAT on electronic newspapers has been proposed. The effect on revenues is estimated to be NOK 350 million in 2016. 

Main priorities in 2016

Zero-rate VAT for electronic news services

The Government seeks to modernise its media policy instruments through more equal treatment of the media, independent of technological platform. Therefore, the Government wishes to introduce a zero-rate VAT on electronic news services in 2016. The effect on state revenues is estimated to be NOK 350 million in 2016. 

“The difference in taxation rates between print newspapers and electronic news media has posed a significant obstacle to innovation and development in the media industry for a number of years. By removing this obstacle, the Government will make it possible for the media industry to develop and offer future-oriented news media products to end-users irrespective of platform,” says Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey.

The Government intends to submit formal notification of the VAT exemption on electronic news services to the EFTA Surveillance Authority as soon as possible. Proposed amendments to the VAT Act will be presented at the same time as the national budget for 2016. The exemption will enter into effect as soon as approval from the EFTA Surveillance Authority has been granted and regulations are established.

An additional NOK 15 million for expansion of the gift reinforcement programme

The Government will increase private sector funding of cultural activities by expanding the gift reinforcement programme and creating a better framework for private funds and foundations.

“The gift reinforcement programme has been highly successful and we will enhance and expand the scheme in 2016. The Government would like to see more private funding and more private capital for Norwegian cultural activities. Multiple sources of funding ensure that stewardship is more widely dispersed, making cultural life more robust and more independent,” states Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey.

The Government proposes that the gift reinforcement programme is expanded in 2016 to encompass more areas of the cultural sector, including music, literature and dramatic arts, visual arts and cultural facilities, and will set aside NOK 45 million in 2016 for this purpose.

Film incentive scheme, regional film funds and the dissemination of film

Next year’s budget follows up on the government’s white paper on film by strengthening a number of areas within the Norwegian film industry. 

“We will launch an incentive scheme for Norwegian and foreign film. We are setting aside NOK 45 million in next year’s budget. Beginning in 2016, it will be possible for film and television producers to receive reimbursement for 25 per cent of the expenses incurred in connection with production activities in Norway. The Government is introducing the incentive scheme to strengthen Norway’s competitiveness and to make it a more attractive filming location,” states Thorhild Widvey.

This will give the Norwegian film industry access to a larger market, more sources of revenue and valuable experience. The new incentive scheme proposal will be circulated for consultative review soon.

The Government is strengthening the regional film funds to give the regions a higher profile in the Norwegian cultural sector. A permanent grant scheme based on three consolidated regional film funds will replace the current pilot scheme. The new grant scheme will have a budget framework of NOK 20 million, compared to approximately NOK 11 million in 2015.

There has not been a cohesive policy in place for the film industry regarding the dissemination of film.

“In order to safeguard cinematheques, film festivals and film clubs – the entire range of film-related cultural initiatives – we are introducing a unified grant scheme for the dissemination of film. The cinema will remain an important arena for showing and promoting film, but by making funding available for new dissemination forms the scheme will be more oriented towards the future,” Ms Widvey says.

Revenues from levies on films and videograms, which were previously channelled into the Norwegian Cinema and Film Foundation, will be entered into the national budget in 2016. These revenues will still go to dissemination of film, and responsibility for administering the scheme will be transferred to the Norwegian Film Institute.

In order to ensure continuity for current grant recipients, transition schemes will be in place until the new regulations have been finalised. The schemes may be found on the websites of the Ministry of Culture and the Norwegian Film Institute.

Regional measures

The Government will continue to carry out targeted regional measures in 2016. In addition to enhancing selected art initiatives and museums, the Government proposes a significant increase in regional film funds, and the establishment of a Norwegian Film Institute branch in Bergen to administer the film incentive scheme.

The measures set out in the National Library strategy, the Government’s initiative for choral and vocal music and the structural changes to the Cultural Rucksack initiative also constitute part of the effort to enhance regional cultural activities. Furthermore, the Government has asked Arts Council Norway to examine the possibilities of relocating some of its administrative activities outside Oslo. In addition to continuing the Talent Norge artistic talent development programme, a pilot project has also been launched to support the excellent efforts carried out in Norway’s many local cultural centres. Special provisions have been made for cultural and arts institutions in Rogaland and Hordaland counties in 2016.

The Government will continue its focus on public libraries. In its National Library strategy for 2015–2018, the Government has presented specific solutions for strengthening public libraries as active disseminators of knowledge and cultural heritage, and measures to promote the public libraries as attractive, independent meeting places and arenas for public discussion and debate.

The financial situation of artists

The Government is following up on  a report on artists’ economy  (2015) by allocating slightly over NOK 13 million more to several different measures in the budget for the coming year. Funding has been set aside to  strengthen the role of art criticism, to reinforce the pilot project for exhibition remuneration, in addition to a further investment in visual arts through increased support for art venues. Increased funding for the Alliance for Actors and Dancers has also been recommended in addition to an increase in support for musicians and musical ensembles and the literature procurement schemes under Arts Council Norway.

In particular, the Government wishes to prioritise measures which expand the scope of demand in the freelance arena, and which simplify and renew administrative procedures.

The initiative for choral and vocal music

The Government has taken active steps to enhance both the highest level and the overall breadth of choral and vocal music by increasing funding to the choir participation funding scheme, the Krafttak for sang coordination platform, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, and the Edvard Grieg Choir. In addition, allocations to the Norwegian Cultural Fund have been significantly increased to support these activities. These efforts will be continued in 2016.

Volunteerism and sports

The Government submitted a proposal to increase VAT compensation for non-profit organisations by NOK 60 million, resulting in a total allocation of NOK 1.3 billion in 2016.

The Government has also proposed eliminating the annual fee for the Brønnøyund registry of volunteer organisations in 2016 which would make registration of volunteer organisations free of charge.

Beginning in 2016 the proceeds from estates with no heirs will be channelled into voluntary organisations. These funds will be managed by the Norwegian Children and Youth Council. The amount for 2016 is nearly NOK 12 million.

The VAT compensation scheme for sports facilities will be raised to NOK 142.9 million in 2016, which is an increase of NOK 42.9 million.

Cultural heritage and museums

The Ministry of Culture attaches importance to dissemination, preservation and maintenance of buildings and daily operations in the proposed increase in allocations to museums in the National Museum Network. The Government recommends additional funding of NOK 13.8 million to 10 museums in 2016. In addition, the Government will increase support for the KODE Art Museums of Bergen. An exchange has been agreed on with Bergen Municipality in relation to the operating grant for the USF Verftet art venues and KODE. The municipality will assume responsibility for the operating grant for USF Verftet venues, and the state will increase its contribution to KODE by a corresponding amount.

It is proposed to increase support for several museums in Rogaland and Hordaland through a one-time subvention as part of the Government’s package of measures to boost employment, and a one-time subvention for investment has been proposed as well. An increase of NOK 88.3 million in the overall funding to museums in the National Museum network is proposed, of which NOK 57 million is related to the employment measures package, cf. section below.

Package of measures to improve employment – cultural facilities and maintenance of historic cultural buildings

In its national budget for 2016, the Government will give priority to measures that promote employment, activity and restructuring. A particular challenge at the moment, is that so many people are losing their jobs in the industries and counties hardest hit by the lower price of oil. As part of the budget, the Government is introducing a special package of measures totalling NOK 4 billion to boost employment.

The Ministry of Culture has proposed measures relating to cultural facilities and the maintenance of cultural buildings of historic importance. The Government proposes a one-time subvention of NOK 57 million for museums in Rogaland and Hordaland counties to improve maintenance of the buildings under the management of these museums. In addition, a one-time subvention of a total of NOK 10 million is proposed for the maintenance of two theatres and NOK 54.1 million for investment initiatives for four museums as part of the package.