The French Government is experiencing this week with the "cultural pass" promised by Emmanuel Macron during the campaign that led him to the Elysee. The project is intended for 18-year-old French people: upon reaching adulthood they will benefit from a credit of 500 euros, granted by the State, to invest in products and cultural activities. The device has just entered a six-month trial period, involving 13,000 volunteers from five departments.
The Macron pass will allow you to buy books, DVDs and tickets for movies, theater and concerts, as well as sign up for workshops and courses or subscribe to the platforms streaming. The access will be made from an application for mobile phones and tablets conceived by the Ministry of Culture, which will propose services and geolocated activities in the vicinity of the place where the user is located. "Sometimes we joke saying that he is a Tinder of the culture", affirmed his person in charge, Éric Garandeau, in June of 2018.
The initiative is part of the will of the Government to further democratize the scope of the cultural offer. "The transmission of our culture is what makes our children become French citizens. Access to art everywhere and for everyone is the first mission of my ministry, "said Minister of Culture, Franck Riester. When the experimentation concludes, it will decide if it generalizes the project to the whole territory. If progress is made at the expected rate, 200,000 young people could benefit from the cultural pass at the end of 2020, Le Monde
France has opted to facilitate the process through a totally digital process, led by a "Startup of State ", as defined by the Ministry of Culture, following the official terminology of the macronismo, partisan of the new economy.
In reality, this application may be used, in the medium term, by any French citizen, although only 500 euros will be received by those who reach the age of majority. The idea is to favor the cultural emancipation of young people, but also to promote a new access to the offer of artistic activities, in which everything can be done in a couple of clicks from a mobile device with integrated GPS. "It is a new universal service of culture, of a similar scale, perhaps, to the invention of public television," says Minister Riester.
This initiative marks a change of orientation unprecedented in French cultural policy. It is the first time, since the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1959 by the hand of André Malraux, that it is preferred to subsidize the demand and not the offer. The budget for these six months of experimentation is 34 million, although the Government trusts that the private initiative will do its part, reducing its prices or offering some services for free. According to the French press, the necessary departure for this cultural pass when it concerns all 18-year-olds will be 400 million euros per year. The Executive expects not to have to pay more than 80%, according to Le Parisien.
At the moment, the Government has closed the participation of 900 private partners for the trial period. Almost all of them are French: chains such as Canal Plus, Orange OCS, Arte or France Télévisions will collaborate, in addition to the music platform in streaming Deezer or the videogame company Ubisoft. In contrast, neither Google nor Apple nor Netflix are among the collaborating entities, despite having been invited by the ministry (the first admitted having met with those responsible for the pass in a preliminary phase). Audible, leader of the audiobook acquired by Amazon, is one of the few foreign companies that have agreed to participate in the experimentation.
The algorithm of the French application will work very differently from the Internet giants: it will propose products and services diametrically opposed to those that the consumer has previously chosen, instead of insisting on similar ones. "Becoming prescribers, large digital platforms risk maintaining users in a mechanical reproduction of their choices," says the document that presents the project. "The cultural pass has the ambition to build an opposite model, to accompany users towards an expansion of their preferences and tastes."
On the other hand, to prevent these platforms monopolize the entire check delivered to young people, the ministry intends to impose a limit of 200 euros for the expenses in digital offers. For the purchase of material goods, such as books and DVDs, each user can spend another 200 euros at most. On the other hand, there will be no limit to cultural outings, such as cinema, theater, concerts or the courses and workshops included in the offer.
The gestation of the cultural pass has been marked by delays, criticism and skepticism. The former Minister of Culture Jack Lang, architect of the cultural democratization that the left of Mitterrand carried out in the eighties, has been "unconvinced." Neither in the departments involved do opinions seem unanimous. "For the popular classes, the problem is not only financial. There has to be a work of mediation, of preparation for the work ", said the socialist deputy Stéphane Troussel, representative of the constituency of Seine-Saint Denis, in the depressed banlieue Paris, one of the five demarcations participating in the pilot test.
There is also the suspicion that the Government prefers to privilege the institutional offer over more popular and less elitist forms of culture. "Is not true. Video games or hip hop are included. Any offer that is legal will be present, "says a spokesman for Culture, although it states that the services and activities highlighted in the application will be" editorialized ". "We will always give more visibility to an art and essay film than to a blockbuster"He admits. Almost 30 years after imposing the notion of cultural exception, France aspires to once again be at the forefront of the economy of the sector. Although it seems early to know if this ambitious launch, one of the spearheads of Macron's presidential project, will be a triumph or a further failure in his tortuous first term in office.
The French cultural pass is inspired in the "cultural bonds" created by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in 2016 -and still in force-, although it introduces novelties to avoid the dysfunctions of that project. Their coupons are also worth 500 euros and benefit 18 year olds, but there were episodes of fraud or resale, and 40% of those who were entitled to the bonus did not go to pick it up.
In Spain, there are similar experiments, although of smaller magnitudes and economic amounts. In Madrid, the so-called JOBO offers free access to young people between 16 and 26 years old to the Price Circus or the Spanish Theater. The Cooltura Joven de Cantabria bonus gives 30 euros of discount to those born in 2000. And in the Diputación de Gipuzkoa there are also bonuses of eight or 12 euros for cultural purchases of more than 20 euros.
When he was in opposition, andl PSOE proposed a "cultural bonus", although without clarifying figures or endowments.