European Commission comes under fire from professionals over future of MEDIA

On the eve of this year’s European Rendezvous in Cannes, the European Commission has come under fire from European film industry professionals for not appearing to be seeking a genuine dialogue about the MEDIA Programme’s future.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily Martin Moszkowicz, president of the European Producers Club (EPC), declared: “The professionals within the industry have voiced their concerns and we are very much afraid that nobody is going to listen to us. We feel that we are not part of the process and nobody really knows what is going on at the moment.”

Moszkowicz’s comments came after the EPC joined forces with a number of organisations representing producers, sales agents, distributors, offline and online video publishers from across Europe to contribute to the Commission’s deliberations on a future MEDIA Programme.

Last week, a letter was sent by the group to Jan Truszczynski, director general for education and culture in Brussels, with a joint paper outlining “concrete propositions as answers to the challenges and the needs for the European audiovisual chain”.

The signatories on the producers’ side were Elena Lai (CEPI), Alexandra Lebret (EPC/EPAA), Yvon Thiec (Eurocinema) and Benoit Ginisty (FIAPF), while the distributors were represented by Adeline Monzier (Europa Distribution) and Antoine Virenque (FIAD), offline and online video publishers by Charlotte Lund Thomsen (IVF) and sales agents by Jacques-Eric Strauss (EFEA).

“We need an overall strategic plan for the next MEDIA Programme,” Moszkowicz continued. “It is not just about saying that, instead of 120 million, it is now going to be 130 million. The money is, of course, an important issue, but not the main one. What we want is a real activity plan and to know where our business is going, how European film-makers will be affected by cross-border cultural exchange or the digitisation of distribution systems. Nobody is giving that a lot of thought.”

He explained that digitisation of the film industry, MEDIA Mundus (which aims to strengthen cultural and commercial links between the European industry and non-EU countries) and funding application procedures were among the issues covered in the paper sent to Truszczynski.

“We need a plan for the digitisation of our whole business and an overall road map of how to get there,” Moszkowicz suggested. “The MEDIA Programme needs to focus on that, but is lagging behind on this at the moment. As far as MEDIA Mundus is concerned, we should have a strategic plan to target certain countries. At the moment, we don’t feel that the countries which are really important for our business in the future - such as China - have been given enough consideration.”

He also called for a “simplification” to the process of making applications for funding from MEDIA: “It is the most bureaucratic of any I have seen in the world. We need to find a more consumer-friendly approach within the next Programme because the current situation makes it very difficult especially for smaller companies to access [the funding].”

Moreover, Moszkowicz rejected plans to include a future MEDIA Programme with the EU’s Culture Programme under a Creative Europe umbrella. This scenario had been presented by Truszczynski at the MEDIA hearing in mid-March as being practically a foregone conclusion in the preparations for MEDIA post 2013.

“Our business is complicated enough already in bringing all interests together, and then to want to put it under a bigger umbrella would be exactly the wrong thing,” Moszkowicz said.

The EPC president had previously been in contact with the European Commission’s President Jose Manuel Barroso in February to “strongly urge the Union to increase the MEDIA Programme budget for the upcoming budget period”.

“Over the years, the MEDIA Programme has gradually contributed to the structuring of the market. It has become a true backbone of the industry, focusing its actions in the places where national institutions are weak,“ Moszkowicz said. “Giving 0.1% of the European budget to a sector that contributes around 5% of the European GDP is already very little.”
He revealed that the producers‘ association, which unites the most important independent film producers across Europe, hadn‘t received “any substantial reply” from the EC president to its February letter.
At the same time, concerns about MEDIA’s future have not been restricted to the EU’s borders as is shown by two letters of support sent to Barroso by producers’ guilds in India and China.
Bobby Bedi, representing the Film and TV Producers‘ Guild of India, told Barroso that “the first bridges” built between the Indian and European industries and “a growing understanding and trust“ were thanks to EPC activities supported by MEDIA in India, such as the Bilateral Forum in Mumbai.
“Ending this collaboration – stopping short a relationship that took years to build, cutting off the events and opportunities that were the fruit of this relationship – would be a major setback,” Bedi said.
In another letter of support, Zhang Yun of the China Film Co-Production Corporation informed Barroso: “We simply cannot continue without the aid [MEDIA] provides. It is essential to our activities, and more widely, to the strategy of bringing our nations’ film industries together.“