The MEDIA Programme is seeking a year extension to funding support mechanism MEDIA Plus, which is due to end in 2005.

'We will be proposing a technical extension of MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training for one more year until the end of 2006 so that the programme can be aligned with the rest of the European Commission's financial programmes", MEDIA Programme head Jacques Delmoly explained.

"This is to avoid an interruption between the MEDIA programmes", adds Jean-Michel Baer, EC director of audiovisual policy, culture and sports. "2004 will be a very important year for the Union with the enlargement, the preparation of the new financial framework as well as the election of a new European Parliament. "

By the end of this year, the EC will propose changes to a new MEDIA Programme depending on the recommendations from the Media Plus mid-term review being published in the middle of the year. Delmoly is keen that the i2i financial instrument could be integrated in a future programme.

"The signing of the Nice Treaty means that it will take more time to agree on the next MEDIA Programme", Baer explains. "This time round it will be a joint decision by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. It is more democratic, but more complicated as the next Programme will be adopted by a qualified majority. MEDIA Plus was decided by a unanimous vote."

"Moreover, for the future MEDIA we are looking to encourage the setting up of a more structural network of distributors throughout Europe and have already discussions with distributors at a meeting in Brussels", Delmoly said.

Meanwhile, an innovation for the existing MEDIA Plus Programme is the launch this year of a new measure to support festivals outside of Europe which are dedicated to European films. "We have spoken to European Film Promotion and the European Coordination of Film Festivals about the idea and will be having a call for proposals for an organisation to provide professional and technical services for all those festivals of European cinema in other continents."