EC Commissioner Kroes declares that digital age “isn’t a threat to the film industry”, but “an opportunity”.

The European Commission’s Vice-President Neelie Kroes, who has responsibility for the Digital Agenda, has said the digital age “isn’t a threat to the film industry, neither to cinemas nor broadcasters”.

“It’s not something to be ignored; still less something to be fought, tackled, legislated against,” she argued.

“But it’s an opportunity: something to be welcomed, supported, embraced. Online channels offer a new way to reach out to a different audience - an audience who, for one reason or another, wouldn’t go to the cinema.”

Kroes was speaking during this week’s Mipcom market in Cannes at a multi-stakeholder roundtable on the financing and distribution of European films in the EU.

The closed event was hosted by Kroes together with Philippe Brunet, chef du cabinet for EC Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

“I am optimistic that, for the film sector, the opportunities of ICT significantly outweigh the costs,” Kroes continued. ”But I also want to help, because the right legal framework can support.”

“For example: different Member States take different approaches to release windows. In some, strict legislation sets out when a film can be shown in cinemas, when released on DVD, and so on. Others take a more flexible approach, able to adapt to the needs of different films, different business models, and new emerging technologies.”

“I’d like a framework of rules that lets your sector take advantage of single market economies of scale. Opening up an audience of 500 million people. A framework that helps the European companies who have new ideas and new business models. I don’t want us just to wait for America to nurture new ideas before we import them. I want those ideas to be born here in Europe, and to grow and flourish here too; with easy access to a Single Market providing fertile soil for that growth.”

She also called for a framework limiting piracy, “not simply through ever-more aggressive enforcement, but by making it easier for people to get what they want, instantly, on demand and legally; without facing frustrating, artificial barriers.“

The results of the roundtable discussion, which was attended by such leading European players as Vincent Grimond (Wild Bunch), Tim Richards (VUE Entertainment), Eric Garandeau (CNC), Martin Moszkowicz (Constantin Film), Jean-Yves Bloch (UniversCiné), Ad Weststrate (UNIC) and Henrik Bo Nielsen, (Danish Film Institute), is intended to feed into the preparation of a Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on European film in the digital era to be adopted at the beginning of 2013.

Speaking to Screen after the roundtable, MEDIA unit chief Aviva Silver explained that this recommendation would “cover three areas – cinema digitisation, online services and cinema heritage. Provided we get agreement on all levels, this would be a recommendation to the Member States, rather than to the European Commission, in line with subsidiarity.”