The first ever report on Spanish public cultural action abroad shows two things: Spain appears to be far behind neighboring countries such as France in this institutional support, and there is a "need for internal coordination to improve the substance and quality" of this cultural task.

The 94-page report on "Spanish cultural action abroad" was drawn up by the Latin American Observatory on Authors Rights (ODAI) and Madrid-based Fundacio'n Autor, the promotional arm of the Spanish collecting society SGAE, and presented at SGAE in Madrid But only 23 of the 36 public institutions (11 State and 25 regional governments) bothered to answer the report, the first that includes statistics.

"Several things are revealed for the first time, such as the fact that two ministerial divisions [the industry ministry's Foreign Trade Institute (ICEX) with 5%, and the culture ministry's National Institute of Scenic and Musical Arts (INAEM) with 7%] spend less that 10% of their budget on spreading Spanish culture abroad", said SGAE secretary general Paco Galindo. INAEM and 15 other institutions say their main priority is music.

Using 2008 figures, France dedicated €305 million ($418 million), three times more than Spanish public institutions. "We complain that we don't have France's budget, but we do not know how much budget we have," SAID Galindo.

The report says €95 million euros ($130 million), but if all 36 institutions had replied, it would have been closer to 120 million euros ($165 million), Galindo added.

The other main problem is the "disparity," says Galindo, between foreign countries that are seen as vital for Spanish culture abroad. For example, the culture ministry's cultural industries and policy department notes important territories as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Europe, with the United States, Canada and China lower in the list. Yet the Cervantes Institute (similar to the British Council) places the United States, Canada and China at the top, with Brazil lower down.

"What is clear is that Spain needs a real coordination of its public and institutional backing so as to provide better information and activities, and at a better price," said Galindo. "I think there is a growing interest [abroad] in Spanish culture of all kinds, but the institutions must act together to provide a better offer."