Algeria/ 7. Public institutions in cultural infrastructure  

7.1 Cultural infrastructure: tendencies & strategies

Reallocation of Public Responsibilities (Privatization, Restructuring etc.)

The Algerian cultural scene is characterized predominantly by public cultural institutions. At the national level these public institutions are represented by the MOC. At the regional level they are represented by directorates of culture and other cultural institutions like culture houses, theatres, museums, cultural centers affiliated to municipalities and youth houses affiliated to the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Private cultural institutions are represented by cultural societies or associations and private cultural institutions such as theatrical cooperatives, audio, visual and musical production institutions, publishing houses and art distribution agencies.
The idea of redistributing public responsibilities in the field of culture began in the mid-1980s when the management of movie theatres was assigned to the private sector. This experiment failed and resulted in the deterioration of film facilities and falling attendance rates. Attempts are being made to return movie theatres to state control and investment projects in building new movie theatres are beginning.

In the early 1990s, the Ministry in charge of culture and communication dissolved three key public institutions: the Algerian Centre for Film Industry, the National Institution for Audio & Visual Production and the National Agency for Documentary Films. Thus the door was opened for the private sector to establish production companies and offer them financial support.

In the publishing field, the National Book Institution was dissolved and all its assets relinquished, such as printing machines, libraries and storage facilities. Some assets were distributed to workers and some were sold in the private market. This experiment also failed because some facilities were not used in compatibility with their original purposes and some libraries were transformed into retail outlets.

Although certain elements of cultural development were privatized in the last 30 years, the state still plays a vital role in sustaining cultural development through support and control of various culture-related institutions.

Status/Role and Development of Major Cultural Institutions

Despite the growth witnessed in the Algerian cultural scene over the past few years, the legislative framework that governs these institutions is still unchanged. Cultural institutions include: public institutions of administrative nature (directorates of culture, culture houses and training centers), public institutions of industrial and commercial nature (theatres, movie theatres, etc.) or public institutions of economic nature (National Institution for Printing Arts). Independent or private institutions on the other hand are governed by the Commercial Institutions Law or the Cultural Associations Law.

The issuance of a number of recent laws intended to clarify the managerial duties of some cultural institutions such as theatres, museums and festivals, did not cover the general framework that governs cultural work in Algeria, particularly in the vocational field. This situation has created many difficulties for independent institutions represented by cultural societies, theatrical and artistic cooperatives or commercial institutions (publishing, audio & visual production and art distribution agencies).

Despite the fact that private institutions are legally independent, they still rely on state subsidies and are yet unable to develop their own resources. This is the case in the written press sector, which benefited from state subsidies at its outset but managed in time to achieve financial independence thanks to advertisement and sales.

Chapter published: 03-05-2013