New report from Polish MEP calls on Europe to speed up the digital shift, as the European Commission gathers views on how Europe can move towards a digital single market.

Calls have come from the European Parliament (EP) for the next generation of the European Union’s MEDIA Programme to increase its support for the digitisation of cinemas.

Presenting his report on European cinema in the digital era at a meeting in Brussels of the EP’s Committee on Culture and Education, Polish MEP Piotr Borys said that “new initiatives need to be taken up within MEDIA aimed at improving and promoting translation, dubbing, subtitling and surtitling as well as training programmes directed at the representatives of the audiovisual and film sectors in order to adapt their expertise to digital technologies.”

Borys said that his report – which had fielded the views of such industry figures as Polish distributor Roman Gutek, film-maker Wim Wenders and Europa Cinemas’ Claude-Eric Poiroux – was “a call to the member states, the Commission, and authorities on the local and regional level to act in a coordinated manner and faster in order to speed up our activities regarding the digital shift.

“It is important to support different ways of financing the digitisation of cinema on a political level,” he observed, pointing out that “an appropriate level of support” was also needed to be included in the European Union’s multi-annual budget for 2014-2020 for structural funds.

Backing from the European Regional Development Fund had in the past allowed arthouse cinemas in such regions as Poland’s Malopolska, Germany’s Lower Saxony and Central and Northern Portugal to better face the challenges of digitisation.

Borys explained that thanks to the structural funds cinemas in Wroclaw and the Malopolska region had been able to increase their audiences by 100%, as they had been able to show both mainstream and quality European titles.

Another “significant” instrument was the provision of preferential credit rates by the European Investment Bank for €80,000-100,000 worth of credit to cinemas with insufficient funds for the digitisation process.

In response to Borys’ report, Aviva Silver, head of the MEDIA unit, pointed that the MEDIA Programme was in fact already supporting dubbing, subtitling and audio-description. “However, we are not proscriptive, we let the distributors choose the languages and whether they will subtitle or dub because we believe that it is the distributors who know best for which market what they will need.”

She said that the Commission “strongly welcomed” the report as it “highlights the urgency and importance of digitisation particularly in the context of globalisation and the way in which our industry is more under siege and under threat than ever”.

At the same time, Silver expressed a note of caution about calling for increased financial support for initiatives from MEDIA in the future. “Looking at the current Commission proposal in the context of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework [for 2014-2020], there will not be enough money to do half of the things we’d like to do, provided we keep that level of budget,” she said.

At the same time, Aleksandra Przegalinska, representing the Polish Presidency of the EU, outlined her country’s priorities for audiovisual policy for the next six months. These range from the digitisation of cinemas and film heritage to copyright issues and the protection of minors in the digital environment, and will be discussed at the informal meeting of Ministers of Culture and Audiovisual Policy in Wroclaw on September 9.

“Sustainable funding [for cinema digitisation] can only be achieved if the EU gives the financial resources needed,” Przegalinska argued, pointing out that there was no one-size-fits-all scheme.

Meanwhile, the debate on EU audiovisual policy in the digital era came as the European Commission issued a Green Paper to gather views on how Europe can seize the new opportunities offered by digital technology and the internet and move towards a digital single market.

The Green Paper was published on the initiative of the internal market commissioner Michel Barnier, in agreement with Neelie Kroes, vice-president for the digital agenda, and Androulla Vassiliou, EU commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth to canvass views of all interested parties on various aspects of online distribution of audiovisual works such as films, documentaries, TV dramas and cartoons.

Replies to the consultation can be submitted until November 18 and will contribute, according to the Commission, to its “assessment of the need for measures to allow EU citizens, providers of online content services and right holders to benefit from the full potential of a digital single market, as well as to the Commission’s forthcoming proposal to streamline the collective management of rights.”