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Bund spends over five million for cultural awards

The year is still young, but the award season in this country is already in full swing: Around a month ago, the Swiss literary awards were presented in Bern. The winners of the « The Most Beautiful Swiss Books » competition and the three « Prix Meret Oppenheim » have already been awarded certainly. What these awards all have in common: they are financed by the Federal Government or the Federal Office of Culture (BAK).

Every year, this awards a large number of awards in various disciplines – and since 2012, more and more were added. Since then, expenditures for the Federal Culture Prizes have increased significantly: from 2.9 million to around 5 million francs in recent years. This includes the prize money and the costs of organizing the events, advertising, promotion, documentation and communication. Last year, the BAK distributed over 70 prices according to its own information. Most of them were endowed with 25,000 francs, but there were also several « Grand Prix » with prize money of 40000 or even 100,000 francs, depending on the division.

A milestone in the career of artists

The origin of the « price flood », as critics call it, is the Culture Promotion Act, which came into force in 2012. Already before, the federal government regularly awarded art and design prizes. But since then, gradual awards have also been introduced for the cultural branches of literature, dance, theater and music. BAK spokeswoman Anne Weibel writes on request that the federal government wants to recognize the achievements of Swiss cultural creation by awarding prizes and prizes, thereby drawing attention to their significance at national and international level. The awards are promotion and doctoral instruments at the same time and for « all winners a milestone in their career« .

Critical votes in Parliament

But the increase in cultural prices also carries risks: if more and more awards compete for attention, there is a danger that their effects will decrease. In addition to the federal government, countless cantons, municipalities and private organizations honor artists for their work each year. As the government council of the canton of Thurgau wrote in its consultation response to the last cultural message: « The flood of prices prevents perceptions of the laureates to the outside and thus devalues ​​both the laureates and the prizes. » The booksellers and publishers association in turn complained that the Federal Government, with its literary prizes, « conducts a price event with disproportionate amounts of money » that does not meaningfully supplement the Association’s own book prize,

Also in the parliament in Bern there are skeptical voices. One of them is Joachim Eder. The Zug FDP Council of States says in terms of spending on cultural awards the BAK: « Five million francs are a proud amount, after all, it is about taxpayers. » But the spending is quite politically legitimated: The budget for the prices was in the cultural message which has been adopted by Parliament. Eder therefore says that he wants to pay particular attention to this aspect when Parliament discusses the next cultural message and thus also the credit for the prizes.

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