There are certain areas of shared social life that should not be made subject to market forces, since this would result in a stifling of the necessary diversity of developments. Philosophy, for example, would count among these areas, having indeed its proper place at publicly-funded universities, even if, as may be argued, this discipline displays an essential connection and symbiosis with culture and society as a whole.
The question, then, is not whether or not culture is to be subsidized at all; the question is rather: how, and in what degree, should it be so subsidized ?
Plastic and Graphic Arts
It should be one of the tasks of the state to maintain artists’ workshops, studios, and galleries so as to make it possible for artists to produce and to present their work on an equal basis.
Given that it is simply not possible to arrive at an „objective“ judgement on the value of an artwork, extreme caution should be exercised in the matter of using works of art to decorate public buildings, wherever such works can only be acquired at a very high price on the alleged grounds of the reputation of the artist producing them or of their immaterial aesthetic value.
Rather, public buildings should be used as inexpensive platforms for the presentation of the works of (as yet) un-established artists.
The artist who seeks economic success should seek it, like everyone else, on the free market.
In principle, it is desirable that the media landscape be as broad and various a one as possible. Ever more noticeable today, however, is a tendency for all existing media to gravitate toward a single homogeneous and formulaic type.
The ranges of programmes offered by the various private TV channels are now, for example, barely distinguishable from one another and even the publicly-funded TV channels are tending to follow formulae set by these private operators.
The German public TV channels ARD and ZDF are, as is well known, financed via obligatory licence fees. It is intended that this form of financing should ensure that the programming on these TV stations can take a form independent of government control, advertising revenue and even - within certain limits - of „ratings“ in the sense of viewer numbers. These stations have, in other words, a commission to educate and to promote culture.
This is not a commission, however, which the publicly-funded TV stations are currently properly fulfilling. Instead of these stations’ carving out their own market niche by offering alternatives to the cheap „reality TV“ and daytime talk shows that are the staple of the private channels, they choose instead to spend millions of euros on acquiring the rights to broadcast sporting events.
The offer of this sort of broadcast is nothing that belongs, properly speaking, to the purview of the public channels and should be left by these rather to the private broadcasters. Not only is it the case that the money so spent is money withdrawn from the public channels’ proper task of developing an alternative range of educative and edifying programmes; the predominance of sports broadcasts in public TV schedules also alters, for the worse, the nature of the programme offer itself.
It is interesting to note that we see nothing like the same degree of coercive gravitation toward a homogenous formula and norm in the sphere of the print-based media.
Regrettably, the state is now attempting to acquire control also over the Internet. With the exception of some few special cases (such as child pornography) such seizure and control by the state of spaces of free interchange and communication can only be counter-productive as regards the interests of a society oriented to civility and social solidarity.
A process of rethinking and re-evaluation is also required in respect of the representation of violence in action movies and video games. The latitude given by the law to scenes of murder and beating is an anomalously wide one in comparison with the censorship exercised in respect of erotic subject-matter.
The remarks which we have made above in respect of the plastic and graphic arts apply, in principle, equally to the sphere of music.
Particularly in the areas of classical music, operas and operettas we see - thanks to the prevailing system of massive government subsidy of such activities - fees for performers, and sums for the services of directors and producers and for the staging of their productions being paid out which stand in no relation at all to the actual box-office takings of the concerts and productions in question.
Among the musicians listened and looked up to by young people in particular, we see a serious lack of figures capable of acting as genuine positive role-models. Given that it is clearly the case that the major record labels have little use today for stars symbolizing maturity and a correspondingly healthy sense of what they are and aspire to be, the publicly-funded TV and radio channels should make it their business to support and promote such artists and bands, so as to give them too a „platform“ within the entertainment industry.
This would be one way, at least, of getting across to today’s youth the value of such ideals as constancy and perseverance.
Even if all that we have said above applies also to the theatre, the actual large playhouses themselves which are indispensable to the continuation of large-scale theatrical activity are a heavy burden on whatever source is used to sustain them.
It makes no sense to continue to allow this burden to be one weighing solely, through state subsidization, on the public purse.
For this reason, serious consideration, at least, should be given to the question of how the whole technology of staging and production which is permanently to hand in such playhouses might also be put to more commercial use, without damage being thereby done to the practice of the theatrical arts in the highest and purest sense.