July 29, 2021

“Why the vast majority of the cultural world, specialists too, are hostile to the Pass offered by Macron”

Chronic. Emmanuel Macron put himself in the shoes of an uncle wanting to give a Christmas present to a nephew. Not knowing his tastes, he places a few tickets in an envelope. The gesture is not very poetic but at least the kid will know what to do with the money.

This is the philosophy of the Culture Pass: 300 euros for each 18-year-old, to be spent over 24 months, through a rich offer offered on a digital application. After two years of tests in fourteen departments, the flagship promise of the President of the Republic has just been launched throughout France.

It is a priori a win-win: young people are offering themselves cinema tickets, books or guitar lessons, and bookstores or theaters have been replenishing their pale coffers since the pandemic. And yet the vast majority of the cultural world, specialists too, are hostile to this digital checkbook. Many subsidized performance venues are already asking for its removal in a press release dated May 19.

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Supporters and opponents of the Pass come together around a question: how to encourage those excluded from culture to read a novel, to go to the theater, to the museum, to the opera, to see a film other than a blockbuster?

Since the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1959, the answer has been roughly the following: to increase the number of places of art and creation, to provide them with means, it is up to them to attract the most diverse public. The audience for this so-called “legitimate” culture has increased in sixty years but, despite laudable actions, modest circles are not, often limiting their leisure time to television or to industrial forms – screens of all kinds. , YouTube, video games, popular movies.

Focus on demand

With his Pass, Macron intends to break this divide, but by a completely different means than that of supply: favoring demand, giving money directly to young people, betting that they will discover works of which they did not think.

He knows the dangers of this approach. First, if public money ends up mostly in the coffers of private companies, especially foreign ones, it would be a fiasco. Also the Pass is “oriented”: young people can subscribe to the French music platform Deezer but not to Swedish Spotify, to Canal + and not to Netflix; an algorithm pushes him to public theaters and museums; digital offers are capped at 100 euros, etc.

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Cultural circles nevertheless fear that the entertainment industry, already irresistible, will be strengthened. It is true that subsidized shows and museums were in low demand during the first tests, but there would be better. Except that in Italy, the only country to offer a similar device, 80% of the purchases of young people go to school books, therefore forced – far from a desire to read – and the demand for theater or dance remains marginal.

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