Germany’s KulturPass Is Renewed, But With a Funding Cut

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Germany’s popular and still-new KulturPass for 18-year-olds sees its per-person allocations dropped ‘from €200 to €100 for this year.’

In the second year of Germany’s KulturPass for 18-year-olds, the program’s allocation for each eligible teen’s spending on books and/or other cultural goods and services has been cut in half. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Wiiliam87

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Kraus vom Cleff: ‘A bitter blow’
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the development of culture vouchers for young adults in several markets has been an interesting trend, albeit one that can be threatened, of course, by governments’ economic vagaries.

You may recall, for example, that in July of last year, the European and International Booksellers Federation‘s (EIBF) “RISE” report—Resilience, Innovation, and Sustainability for the Enhancement of Bookselling—looked at such efforts in Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.

In Italy, the best-known of these programs—often measured by publishers to be providing some substantial sales revenue to the book sector—the 18App, of course, is due for some serious structural changes this year under the Giorgia Meloni administration. The Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) reported in 2021 that 18-year-olds spent 80 percent of their allocations on print books. And in Italy, the 18App—opened in 2016—has until now been worth a handsome €500 for each citizen turning 18.

In Germany, however, the much younger KulturPass is running into pressure, as well. And this, after we were able to report in August that expenditures by young Germans on their new KulturPass program had generated more than €3.2 million in revenue (US$3.5 million) generated for cultural products, events, and services. The cultural minister Claudia Roth’s offices confirmed to us that unit sales of books are resoundingly in the lead in these young adults’ expenditures.

The news today, however (January 22) indicates leaner times ahead for the KulturPass as its second year approaches.

The KulturPass was implemented for the first time in mid-June 2023, with John Silk and Elliot Douglas at Deutsch Welle heralding it as “Free Money: Germany’s €200 Culture Ticket for 18-Year-Olds.” And while the culture minister, Claudia Roth—a strong advocate of the KulturPass—is right to say that it’s good to see the program renewed for a second yet, even at a lower rate of payout to each eligible citizen. But as Peter Kraus vom Cleff, general manager and CEO of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, says, the lowered rate is disappointing.

‘Structural Support for Publishing: Not in the Budget’

The Börsenverein’s press office directed by Thomas Koch, messages the news media this morning, saying, “After the budget adjustment meeting last Thursday, decisions have been made on two measures that are important for the breaking industry.

“The German Book Trade Association welcomes the fact that the Culture Pass for 18-year-olds will be continued in 2024. However, there are significantly fewer financial resources available for this this year, which is why the budget for young adults has been halved from €200 to €100.

“Structural support for publishing, as the Börsenverein has repeatedly called for, is not included in the budget. The decisions are still subject to the resolution of the entire Bundestag at the end of January.”

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

And Kraus vom Cleff says, “It’s good news that the KulturPass will continue to exist in 2024 despite the tight budget situation.

“At the same time, we’re disappointed that financial resources have been significantly reduced.

“In view of the dramatic conclusions drawn by the IGLU and PISA studies on the educational situation in Germany and the growing challenges for our democracy, it’s an indictment that the federal government is making savings, especially in culture and education.

“The KulturPass is an excellent instrument for introducing young people to cultural offerings and thus supporting them in their development into informed, open, and reflective adults. It’s a bitter blow that structural publishing funding will not come in 2024.

“Without this support, which is already provided for in the coalition agreement, diversity on the book market will increasingly be at risk. Small publishers in particular with titles outside the mainstream are under increasing economic pressure. Publishing funding must urgently be on the agenda for the 2025 budget. Otherwise we will see publishers and therefore cultural diversity dying ever more quickly.”

And to be sure it doesn’t look as if the books industry has run away with the success of the KulturPass among its lucky recipients in Germany, just on Friday (January 19), ScreenDaily’s Martin Blaney was reporting not only that German box-0ffice revenues had risen almost 25 percent in 2023 over 2022, but also that “The launch of the KulturPass app in June offering all 18-year-olds living in Germany a budget of €200 to spend on cultural activities had resulted in more than €2.5 million worth of cinema tickets being bought at one of the 740 participating cinemas up to the end of December.”

Claudia Roth

As reported on January 2 by TheLocal.de, Roth has announced an interest in combining Germany’s KulturPass benefits with France’s equivalent PassCulture, which was opened in 2021 with each eligible teen getting €300.

Roth has spoken of looking for additional funding sources for the KulturPass, which at least 750,000 teens have taken advantage of since it launched last June, some 265,000 of them having activated their passes.

“That’s really good for the first six months,” Roth is quoted by TheLocal.de saying, adding that she hopes to see full funding return in coming years.

Graphics for the KulturPass program in Germany now display the €100 rate for eligible 18-year-olds in 2024, rather than the original 2023 €200. Image: KulturPass.de


More from Publishing Perspectives on bookselling is here, more on culture vouchers and their development is here, more on the German book industry and market is here, and more on the work of Germany’s ministry of culture is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.