The European Commission’s (EC) proposal for a new Creative Europe programme to replace the current Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes from 2014 has come under criticism from German politicians and representatives of the German arts and media world.
A closed session of the Bundestag’s Culture and Media Committee last Wednesday (March 21) invited seven experts – Sabine Bornemann, project manager of the Cultural Contact Point Germany, EC representative Susanne Ding, Bernd Scherer, Intendant of the House of World Cultures, Johannes Kreile, deputy managing director of the German Producers Alliance, Christiane Siemen, acting head of MEDIA Desk Germany, Olaf Zimmermann, managing director of the German Arts Council and Philipp Holzscheid of Bavaria’s permanent representation to the EU in Brussels – to give their views on the planned programme.
According to a Bundestag communique on the session’s proceedings, the experts – with the exception of Susanne Ding – suggested that the proposal for the Creative Europe programme would represent “a paradigm shift” compared to how cultural funding had been operating until now on the European level.
Bornemann pointed out that, unlike MEDIA, the Culture Programme had solely supported non-profit projects, yet the Commission was intending in future to only fund projects with a certain minimum turnover.
Scherer summed up his view of the Brussels plans by declaring that the new programme “does not speak the language of culture,” while Zimmermann argued against the merging of the programmes under the Creative Europe umbrella and called for “a strong, independent European cultural policy which is not scaled back to the funding of the creative industry.”
Meanwhile, Holzscheid noted the fact that the EC’s plans had raised the hackles of the German Länder who had passed a resolution in their central organ, the Bundesrat, criticising the proposal’s objectives as being “too strongly business and profit-oriented.”
“An orientation of the programme solely to the goals of growth and employment of the Europe 2020 strategy does not do justice to the cultural sphere and those employed there,” the resolution noted.
The Länder also saw “the danger that the clear structuring of the two previously successful programmes Culture 2007 and MEDIA/MEDIA Mundus will be watered down under the roof of a joint framework programme and thus become more intransparent for the applicants.”
The Bundesrat rejected “in particular” the plans for a joint programme committee for preparing the annual work programme for Creative Europe as well as the merging of the existing Cultural Contact Points and Media Desks into Creative Europe Desks.
“Both of these do not contribute, as the Commission maintains, to greater public transparency, but instead jeopardise a detailed and professional support for the applicants in the very different areas of culture and audiovisual media,” the resolution said.
The German Länder, therefore, spoke “emphatically” for “a flexible solution” at member state level regarding the number of national contact offices and their legal form, especially in large countries like Germany (where there is currently one MEDIA Desk in Hamburg and three Antenna in Berlin-Brandenburg, Munich and Düsseldorf) or those with different language areas such as Belgium and Spain.
At the same time, Germany’s SPD opposition parliamentary party is awaiting an answer from the Angela Merkel-led coalition to its minor interpellation tabled earlier this month in the Bundestag with 36 questions on the proposed Creative Europe programme.
Meanwhile, this week also saw the UK’s House of Lords Social Policies and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee have the second of its evidence sessions on Creative Europe, this time with Ann Branch, senior official from the EC’s DG for Education & Culture, Yvette Vaughan Jones, executive director of Visiting Arts, and Agnieszka Moody, director of MEDIA Desk UK, answering questions from the Sub-Committee members for an hour on Thursday morning (March 22).
Moreover, this week’s Graz’s Festival of Austrian Film - Diagonale included an information session on the Creative Europe proposal during the second day of its Industry Meeting with presentations by MEDIA Desk Austria’s Esther Krausz, Elisabeth Pacher of the Cultural Contact Point, Brigitte Winkler-Komar of the Federal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture (BMUKK), and Irina Orssich from the European Commission speaking on the new financial instrument.
This proposed loan guarantee facility has also been the focus of a public consultation launched by the MEDIA Desk in Belgium’s Flemish Community in association with Belgium’s Permanent Representation to the European Union. Professionals working in all areas of the audiovisual industry were invited to give their views by March 16.
Across the English Channel, the UK’s British Film Institute (BFI) welcomed with caution the Commission’s ambition to introduce a different model of financial support to creative and cultural SMEs, which is potentially more efficient and can unlock substantial investment from the private sector.
“Introducing such a financial instrument will help some of the CCS to rely less on grants and move to a more entrepreneurial model where projects show a realistic prospect of generating revenue”, the BFI said in its response to the DCMS consultation on Creative Europe.
“However, the success of the financing facility depends on both the positive approach and engagement of the banking sector on one side, and the take-up from SMEs on the other,” it continued and welcomed the involvement of the European Investment Fund as a partner to manage the facility for the Commission.
The BFI added that it had observed closely the early developments of the MEDIA Production Guarantee Fund “and notes that the fund is yet to demonstrate much buy-in from banks, with the vast majority of the transactions already in place going to France’s specialist film banks Cofiloisir and Coficine.”