The European Commission has launched a public consultation to allow its plans to extend the state aid assessment criteria for cinema in Europe until 2012 to go ahead.

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on its plans to extend the state aid assessment criteria for cinema in Europe.

Earlier this year the Commission announced its intention to extend current rules until 2012, in order to avoid unnecessary uncertainty for the European film industry. The public consultation is the next stage in the process to officially implement that extension.

The Commission is reluctant to amend the current rules before considering the results of a recent study on the economic and cultural impact of territorial conditions in film support schemes. It also wants to take into consideration new trends in the sector particularly in distribution and digital technology.

News of the public consultation came in a joint statement from European Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes underlined the need to provide the industry with certainty over the next few years by extending the current rules, but also suggested that the consultation would feed into a broader more long term discussion

'The additional three years for which we propose to maintain the existing state aid rules should offer a welcome assurance to Member States and the film sector. At the same time, we would like to kick-start a debate across Europe about whether European citizens are getting the choice of films they want and, if not, why not.' Commissioner Kroes said.

Meanwhile Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding stressed the underlying importance of the cultural elements of support for European film.

'For Europe, cultural diversity is more than just one policy objective. It is a value inherent in the social model that made Europe special in the world.' Commissioner Reding explained.

An estimated Eu1.6 billion is spent on national film support each year across Europe, mainly in the form of direct grants or tax incentives. Around 70% of the support is focused on film production. Under current rules, state support for film production is exempt from the EU ban on state aid under certain conditions, including:

  • The film fits the definition of cultural according to national criteria;
  • Producers are free to spend at least 20% of the film budget in other EU Member States, with no reduction in support provided;
  • Support is limited to 50% of the production budget, except for difficult and low budget films; and
  • Support doesn't supplement specific activities (e.g. post-production).

The public consultation closes on 30 November 2008.