February 16, 2010

Call To Combine Culture With Innovation

A leading academic has urged the Australian Government to combine its national policies on culture and innovation, in order to avoid a fresh outbreak of "Ëœthe culture wars'.

The Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI), Professor Stuart Cunningham, said today that Australia needs to grow new markets for culture and to take full advantage of the market mechanisms and innovation that underpin growth in the entire economy.

The proposal to bring culture and innovation closer together under a new Australian model for national cultural development is contained in a submission to the Federal Government on developing a national cultural policy by Prof. Cunningham and CCI colleague Dr Jason Potts.

For decades national cultural policy has been stuck between two poles, they say "“ one arguing that the market has failed, so governments must subsidize culture; the other arguing that government cultural subsidies also fail and the public should be allowed to choose its own culture.

It is high time for a "Ëœmiddle way' that takes full advantage of Australia's strengths both in culture and creativity, on the one hand, and innovation and market dynamism on the other, Prof. Cunningham says.

"Arts Minister Garrett has called for a "Ëœrobust, freewheeling and substantial public discussion' about national cultural policy. His main themes "“ keeping culture strong', "Ëœengaging the community', and "Ëœpowering the young' "“offer real scope for fresh ideas," he said.

"But if the choice being debated is simply less versus more public support for culture, then this will be a tired debate strangled at birth by the ghosts of politics past.

"If it is going to another be left-versus-right squabble, or fought out on the grounds of "Ëœmarket failure' versus "Ëœgovernment failure', the timely national debate that the Minister urges is likely to degenerate into another theatre of the culture wars," Prof. Cunningham warns.

"That would be a wasted opportunity, for there is also a middle way "“ the growth of markets for culture and innovation "“ that would seek to shift the debate toward harnessing market mechanisms."

This did not simply mean using more efficient market mechanisms to deliver cultural goods and services but rather re-orienting National Cultural Policy and its goals to take full advantage of market dynamics and the innovation process that underpins and drives economic growth and development for the nation as a whole.

"Government action and public money may then work to foster the capabilities and benefits of Australian creativity into Australian enterprises and emerging markets. These, in turn, will lead to a more vibrant and sustainable arts and cultural sector."

The CCI's submission on national cultural policy development is found as submission 54 on the National Cultural Policy website at http://nationalculturalpolicy.com.au/document/index/1, or go to: http://cci.edu.au/sites/default/files/ccook/CCI%20National%20Cultural%20Policy%20submission%201%20Feb%202010.pdf

The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business. Its website is at: http://www.cci.edu.au