Finland/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Like the overall Finnish political and administrative system, the Finnish cultural policy system is simultaneously highly decentralised and highly centralised. This is due to the fact that the local government system is strong and autonomous. On the other hand, with the advent of the social welfare state, the main burden of maintaining modern public services including cultural services, were shouldered by municipalities; while the state set the legislative frameworks and was legislatively committed to compensate a statutory share of expenditure. In the late 1980s and in the 1990s, this system, which had earlier covered public libraries and adult education, was expanded to include museums, theatres, orchestras and basic (extra-curricular) arts education. As a result of this development, the state is mainly responsible for the arts support systems, national cultural and art institutions, international cultural co-operation and university level cultural and arts education and shares with the municipalities the financial responsibility of maintaining the nation-wide system of performing arts institutions and cultural services.

Municipalities maintain infrastructure for local cultural and arts activities and they also receive central government subsidies for infrastructure investments. As to the cultural policy competence, the state and the municipal sector are formally on an equal footing although the state has a stronger hold of the steering wheel - that is legislation and financing. There is no overall autonomous regional administration, although EU-membership has strengthened the role of the regional councils, which are federations of municipalities.

In the cultural policy decision-making, the final legislative and budgetary powers rest with Parliament; the overall and co-ordinating executive powers of policy initiation, planning and implementation lie with the government (Council of State), and sector policy initiation, planning and implementation powers are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Municipalities, with their own elected and managerial political and administrative decision-making bodies (see the organigram) provide a counterbalance to these national powers.

In Parliament, the main work in preparation of bills and budget proposals is carried out in parliamentary committees. The Parliamentary Committee of Education and Culture deals with cultural policy issues but the powerful Committee of Finance checks and sets the financial frames for all budget allocations. After Finland's accession to the European Union, the Grand Committee became an increasingly important body that monitors the relations between national and Union legislation and policies. For that purpose it hears the ministers before and after the Union's Council meetings. This means that the ministers, among them the Minister of Education and Culture, have become responsible to Parliament in a new direct manner.

After its appointment, a new government is obliged by the Constitution to submit its action programme as a formal communication to Parliament for discussion. The programme sets the agenda for the government and it is accompanied by proposals of general and sector development programmes and projects. Culture, youth work and sports, which are considered a joint administrative sector, usually receive a rather short development plan in the programme. In recent years, the government's plans and programmes concerning the overall state support for the municipal sector and third sector institutions are more salient for the arts and culture than the proposed specific policy measures. Art and culture, and youth work and sports, although supported by the same types of state statutory transfer (subsidy) system as other public services, are, however, set apart from other services by their special source of financing. They are financed prominently from profits of the state lottery, football and games pools and the sports betting company (Veikkaus). These profits and their use do not follow the same pattern as the overall financial policy of the central government, because overall public finance fluctuations and gambling interests do not always coincide and, also, the state budget proposal for a given year is made before the actual annual amount of Veikkaus profits is known. Although there are strict legislative rules limiting the use of Veikkaus profits to the arts, youth work, sports and scientific research, the Ministry of Finance and the ruling government have often, irrespectively, tried and succeeded in using them as compensatory resources to fill other budget gaps (see also chapter 5.1.3 and chapter 6).

The government does not have any permanent committees or other expert bodies responsible for cultural policy purposes. It can though set up special working groups to monitor and prepare decisions in important policy sectors.

On the sector level, the main planning and executive responsibility lies with the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the Ministry, there are two ministers: the Minister of Education and Science and the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. The latter presides over the Department for Cultural, Sports and Youth Policy, which from the beginning of May 2014 was divided into two separate Departments: Department for Art and Culture and Department for Youth and Sport.

The Ministry and its departments and divisions focus on strategic planning and governance through information provision and performance contracts. In cultural policy implementation the following organisations are of prime importance:

  • the system of arts councils and its specific art form councils, which is responsible for implementing arts and artists' policies and provides peer group evaluation mechanisms for deciding grants for artists and artist-led projects; as well as regional art councils. From 1 January 2013 a new government expert body, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, started its activities and replaced the former Arts Council of Finland (see below).
  • the National Board of Antiquities which, besides its archaeological functions, is also the main governmental expert body for the whole heritage sector and professional museum activities; and
  • the Finnish Film Foundation which allocates public support for film production and distribution.

Furthermore, more specific expert and national policy implementation functions are carried out by bodies such as the National Art Gallery, National Audiovisual Institute, Library for the Visually Impaired (CELIA), and the Administration of the Fortress of Suomenlinna (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The Arts Promotion Centre Finland

In 2010 the Ministry of Education and Culture prepared a draft law which proposed the dissolving of the present national Arts Council system and establishing in its place another organisation named "Arts Promotion Centre Finland" (Taiteen edistämiskeskus in Finnish, abbreviation Taike). The idea behind re-organising the system of arts councils was to increase the transparency of decision making and the flexibility of the art form councils in responding to the new art forms. In the end the most important issue was to separate the peer review expert body from the administrative function of the council as they had become increasingly intermingled. This separation was felt to be essential for strengthening and safeguarding the autonomy of the arts.

Instead of an expert body, the new organisation was to be of a central agency type with a centralised but light organisational structure a well-functioning and receptive information system. Understandably, this draft law caused a lot of commotion among professional organisations of artists and cultural workers and caused a lively debate in the press. After almost two years of debate the Parliament of Finland finally passed the bill establishing the new Arts Promotion Centre Finland in November 2012 and the centre started operating on 1 January 2013.

The official task of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland is to promote the arts and the work of artists on both national and international levels, as well as to promote those aspects of culture that are not covered by any other official agency. The Centre is an expert agency under the Ministry of Education and Culture. It comprises a Central Arts Council (Taideneuvosto in Finnish), national arts councils, regional arts councils and separate boards. In charge of the overall management and development of the Centre is a director, appointed for a fixed five year term. The current director is Ms Minna Sirnö, formerly a member of Parliament and a vice-chairperson for the Left Alliance party. 

Highest in the hierarchy of the expert bodies is the Central Arts Council which is appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture for a three-year term. The Council makes decisions regarding the number, names and roles of the national arts councils. It also appoints the members of both national and regional arts councils for two-year terms based on expert recommendations. The Central Arts Council serves as an advisory body to the Ministry of Education and Culture in policymaking regarding the arts. The Central Arts Council is a new type of body in the history of Finnish arts policy and its mandate is so wide and somewhat ambiguous that it remains to be seen what direction it will take.

There are 13 regional arts councils (their number has stayed unchanged) and for the term 2015-2016 there are seven (compared to ten in 2013-2014) national arts councils: Architecture, design and environmental art; Audiovisual art; Performing arts; Literature; Music; Visual arts; and Interdisciplinary art, diversity and international activities. In addition there are two separate boards, one for grants and subsidies to writers and translators and one for public display grants to visual artists. The councils decide on the awarding of grants and awards to artists on the basis of peer reviews. The national arts councils have up to four sub-commitees for the preparation of peer reviews.

According to the Strategy of the Arts Promotion Centre (Taike) for 2015-2020, Taike promotes:

  • the livelihood and working conditions of artists and therefore the availability and accessibility of the arts;
  • the internationalisation of the arts;
  • the diversity of the arts and intercultural dialogue; and
  • the status and visibility of the arts in society and the rights of citizens to art and culture.

In the strategy Taike states as its core values expertise, openness and respect in relation to its customers and art community, the agency itself and its empolyees and the larger society of citizens and public administration.

As operational objectives the Centre states that by 2020:

  • Taike has established its position as an expert in art and artist policies;
  • Taike has created an electronic service package based on the needs of its customers and peer reviewers that is of the highest quality in terms of usability; and
  • Taike has reorganised its structure and operating methods to correspond better with the tasks assigned to it. Taike has clarified its division of duties with other public administration bodies.

As its arts promotion objectives Taike states high quality art and established cross-sector activities among artists and cooperation that promotes livelihoods. According to objectives by 2020:

  • Taike has developed its direct artist grants to respond to the needs of professional artists and communities of free artists; and
  • Taike evaluates the implementation of its strategic targets annually in connection with its annual report and if necessary reviews its targets on the basis of this evaluation.

It is still early to comprehensively evaluate what role the Centre will take in the field of arts and culture. An evaluation of the legislative changes is under way (to be completed in autumn 2016) and will provide a starting point. It is clear that the Centre will be a significant financing body in Finland and most likely the Ministry of Education and Culture will continue in delegating operational duties to the Centre.

International cultural co-operation is managed for the whole ministry by the Secretariat of International Relations. The Department for Cultural, Sports and Youth Policy does not have any units or special plans for intercultural dialogue, partly because the national legislation and administration focuses primarily on the economic and social conditions of minority groups, partly because all educational policies, including education in the arts and culture, come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry's Department of Education and Science (see below and chapter 3.3).

The following other ministries have an important say in the formation and implementation of cultural policies:

  • the Ministry of Finance has a guiding and controlling role in respect to economic planning and budget processes of all ministries;
  • the Ministry of Employment and the Economy provides support for R&D in general and more specifically for the ICT and media and culture / creative industries;
  • the Ministry of Transport and Communications has an important planning and implementation role in telecommunications and radio and television activities;
  • the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for regional development and has a central role in organising and co-ordinating regional development programmes and related EU-initiated financing; and
  • the Ministry of the Interior and its Directorate of Immigration selects and shapes the immigrants through multistage processes consisting of the management of entry and preliminary hearings, application and provision of residence permits and as potential ending of the naturalisation process).

The Non-discrimination Ombudsman (before 2015, the Ombudsman for Minorities) and several advisory bodies have a central role in the protection of minorities, in anti-discrimination policies and in the integration of refugees and immigrants. Until 2008 they, and the integration policy implementation, have been located at the Ministry of Labour. However, the Ministry of Labour was merged by the new government with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (to form the Ministry of Employment and the Economy) and most immigrant policy administration was relocated within the Ministry of the Interior. The labour market and employment issues of immigration policies were transferred to the new Ministry of Employment and the Economy. As for other minority issues, Roma affairs are administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of Justice monitors the observing of the Sami autonomy legislation and administration. The municipalities have the right of taxation, that is, the right to determine the rate of municipal income tax for individuals and enterprises. The state (central government) addresses inequalities and problems of infrastructure development in public services through financial transfers, at present mainly through the statutory subsidy system. This very system is also used for transferring most central government financial support for maintaining more equal regional and local supply of art production and culture services (for the functioning of the system in the performing arts and other cultural services, see chapter 2.1).

Cultural policy decision-making at the municipal level is in the hands of the Municipal Council (elected assembly), the Executive Board (reflecting the party divisions and coalitions in the Council), sector municipal committees and the executive staff, headed by the municipal manager / mayor. Regarding the sector committees and administration, the trend in the 1980s was to integrate all cultural matters (theatre, music, amateur arts, etc.) under one municipal committee for culture. In the 1990s the trend was reversed and cultural matters have been increasingly distributed to trans-sector committees with broader responsibilities (e.g. committees on leisure, tourism, etc.).

There is no autonomous regional administration with elected decision-making bodies. The regional administration of the state has been recently re-organised (2010) and went through a radical reform. The regional administration consists of six regional administrative agencies (former 11 provincial units) and fifteen centres for economic development, transportation and environmental affairs. At the same time, eighteen regional councils (federations of municipalities) have gained a greater role in regional development and planning. This is partly due to their responsibilities in planning and monitoring programmes financed within the framework of the EU programmes. This development has been counter-balanced by the organising of the regional state administration as regional development centres for such important sectors as the economy and employment, forestry, transportation and the environment.

The Regional Art Councils are an extension of the system of the national arts councils to the regional level. Basically, the arts councils have the same functions at regional level (grants and other support to artistic work, project grants) as the Arts Promotion Centre Finland and its art form councils have nationally.

The basic architecture of the core cultural policy decision-making and administration, as it is depicted in the organigram (see chapter 3.1), has not changed much during the last fifteen years. The various sections of the Department of Cultural, Sports and Youth Policy have been altered and names changed. Some delegation of decision-making from the Department to the quangos, especially to the system of arts councils, has also taken place. The regional arts councils, which were directly responsible to the Ministry, were made an administrative part of the "national" system of Arts Councils. On the other hand, crucial changes in jurisdiction and decision-making powers have happened in such culturally salient fields as state-municipality relations, guidance and control of the media and the culture industries, and the administration of refugee and immigrant policies.


Chapter published: 24-04-2017


EN | ES