The trade versus culture debate has been triggered by advancing globalisation and the increasing difficulty of reconciling economic and non-economic objectives, national sovereignty and global responsibilities. The discussions have been heavily politicised and reached their pinnacle in the Uruguay Round of negotiations, which marked the highest degree of institutionalisation of economic globalisation at the international level with the establishment of the WTO. The cultural exception strategy, which has been actively endorsed by the EU, only partly achieved its goals: although the law of the WTO does not contain any exception for cultural goods and services, it permits flexibilities in particular in the field of services, which allow WTO members to shield some sensitive sectors from liberalisation. The EU and its member states, amongst other cultural proponents, have used this opportunity to the fullest, specifically in the audiovisual services sector. As noted earlier, media services is the sector with the lowest level of commitments.
Little has changed since the conclusion of the Uruguay talks in 1994, which is odd, as we are now faced with a completely transformed media landscape. This may have led, amongst other things, to inadequacy of the existent policy measures aimed at achieving (national) cultural objectives, to negative spill-overs to other policy domains and to an overall incoherence in governance (Burri, 2009). Unfortunately very few of these problems have been appropriately addressed in the ongoing Doha Round of negotiations, and it is unlikely that they will be resolved even under the highly optimistic scenario of a successful close of the Doha Round, as the cultural exception legacy endures.
Much has happened outside the WTO, however. The underlying rhetoric of the trade and culture debate has been utterly transformed from 'cultural exception' to 'cultural diversity'. It has also found a new institutional home with UNESCO and ultimately led to the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity in 2005. The Convention affirms state sovereignty in cultural matters and enjoys the broad support of the international community.
The existing international legal framework places few limitations on the EU's and its member states' cultural policy programmes for the media. Change is not to be expected soon. 'Cultural exception' policies - that is, the willingness to draw a line between economic and cultural objectives and exempt cultural goods and services from trade regulation - are still well supported. This is shown by the exclusion of audiovisual services from the negotiations of the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, discussed in Chapter 15 (see also Kanter, 2013). One may wonder therefore why and how policies targeted at the protection and promotion of cultural diversity could change at all. The trigger for change may lie in the new media environment. We have argued elsewhere that the digital space, while not a panacea, offers unprecedented opportunities to cater for a vibrant and diverse cultural environment. We suggest that three paths for policy experimentation are particularly worthwhile considering in this regard: (a) responding to the creative user; (b) responding to the unlimited 'shelf-space' in cyberspace; and (c) taking into account policies conventionally thought peripheral to achieving cultural objectives and often falling outside the traditional media law and policy domain, as conceived pre-digitisation and pre-convergence (Burri, 2012a).
The EU has already launched some projects, such as Europeana (the European Digital Library), which reflect the changes brought about by the Internet, as well as use of its affordances to attain important policy objectives - such as, in this case, multilingual access to Europe's distributed cultural heritage.14 There is in addition a growing awareness amongst the EU institutions that policies need to be adapted too. The Green paper on preparing for a fully converged audiovisual world: Growth, creation and values (European Commission, 2013g) is a good basis to start such a 'renovation' project, although it remains to be seen how this project will be carried on and, in general, how the EU would implement its goal to 'mainstream' culture and make cultural diversity a valid policy objective in domains beyond the audiovisual media (European Commission, 2007a). It remains also to be seen whether the EU-wide policy transformations would lead to any changes in the EU's stance at the WTO, or whether the preservation of the policy space will continue to be the preferred option. The TTIP and US pressure may potentially trigger some rethinking.
In implementing its cultural diversity policies, the EU (or any other global player) would need to consider not only the practical reality of contemporary media but also the changes in global governance. These are characterised by ailing multilateralism, intensified forum-shopping, proliferating PTAs, repositioning of traditional world powers and the emergence of new and stronger actors, to name but a few trends (Cottier and Delimatsis, 2011; Jackson, 2007; WTO, 2011). The emergent modes of cyber-governance, characterised by unilateral state action with global reach, regulation through intermediaries and through technology, only compound the existing complexity (Benkler, 2006; Burri, 2012b; Lessig, 1999, 2006). Against this backdrop, any future solution to the trade and culture quandary appears unlikely in the forum of the WTO or in UNESCO alone, and would have to match the reality of multilevel, multi-domain governance in the attempt to reconcile economic and non-economic objectives.