6.1 Short overview
The financing of culture in the Federal Republic of Germany rests on several pillars. In keeping with the subsidiarity principle, culture – and thus the public financing thereof – is first and foremost the responsibility of the citizens and their local communities. Only when the scope or nature of a cultural policy task is beyond the community's resources does the state step in as a sponsor. The municipalities thus bear the lion's share of the cost of financing public cultural activities and institutions, followed by the federal states (Länder). Due to its limited competence in the field of cultural policy, the Federal Government provides only a small share of the total support for culture in Germany (see chapter 6.2). Impossible to quantify through financial statistics – but by no means insignificant – are the funds stemming from other policy fields, especially job promotion. In Germany's western federal states (Länder), the overwhelming majority of these funds were allocated to third sector sponsors of cultural activities and institutions even prior to unification. In the eastern federal states (Länder), they have taken on great importance in the course of the past ten years for all cultural institutions.
The municipalities, the federal states (Länder) and the Federal Government operate on the basis of rather different definitions of the term "culture", however. To give an example: scientific museums and libraries are included in "culture" within the statistics on the municipality level by Deutscher Städtetag, whereas they are excluded at the level of the federal states (Länder) by the Kultusministerkonferenz or at the federal level by the Federal Office for Statistics. Another challenging aspect for comparisons is different calculation methods: the principle of gross expenditures by the Deutscher Städtetag and the net expenditures by the Kultusministerkonferenz. As a result, public cultural expenditure statistics often varied considerably, in some cases by billions of EUR.
A partial harmonisation was achieved when the Federal Office for Statistics co-operated with statistical offices of some federal states (Länder) to produce the 2nd Cultural Finance Report, published in 2003. For the first time, the offices for statistics of the federal, federal states (Länder) and municipality level agreed on a generally admitted term of "culture", which is oriented towards the definitions of EUROSTAT and UNESCO in order to facilitate comparisons at international level. Since then the following issues were measured by the offices for statistics for "cultural issues": theatre, music, scientific and other museums, scientific and other libraries, archives, heritage issues, cultural administration, academies of Arts and foreign cultural policy (see Table 4). Furthermore, "cultural related issues" includeradio and television broadcasters and media companies, adult education centres and church affairs. Moreover, the principle of basic funds has been chosen to constitute the expenditure. The following cultural finance reports – 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 – maintained the described concept of culture and the expenditure principles. Following the recommendation of the Enquete Commission the federal governments and those of the federals states instructed the Federal Statistical Office to set up a national uniform cultural statistics that should be developed from 2014 to 2016. The discussions around a standardisation of cultural statistics were also taken up by the Enquete-Kommission of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament) on "Culture in Germany", which submitted, in its final report, a suggestion on the harmonisation of cultural statistics. In 2008, this suggestion was discussed and at least partly introduced.
Regardless of these differences, cultural expenditure increased disproportionately in comparison to other areas of public expenditure in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s and the 2000s however – aside from the rise in cultural expenditure at the federal level due to unification – total public expenditure increased nominally but declined in real terms. This negative development ended in 2006/2007 when the cultural expenditure started to rise again slowly in real terms – a development that came to a halt on the regional and local levels, following the 2008/9 world financial crisis. On the other hand, the budget for cultural affairs on the national level rose continuously since 2006 – from 1.00 billion EUR in 2006 to 1.53 billion in 2014 – an increase of 53 %. The per capita expenditure increased 2014 to 18.83 EUR. In relative terms, public spending on culture by the national level accounted for approximately 0.05 % of the German Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 0.91 % of the total public expenditure in 2014.
In order to provide greater transparency on public spending on culture, some federal states (Länder) published reports on culture offering statistical data as well as presentations of the development of the cultural sectors through public funding – e.g. Bavaria (1998, 2005 and 2010), North rhine-Westphalia (2008 and since 2010 annual) and Lower Saxony (2011 and 2013/2014).