MEDIA’s new head of unit, Lucia Recalde Langarica, talks to Martin Blaney about how innovation in technology, people and content can be used to realise Europe’s untapped potential

As the European Union’s Creative Europe framework programme enters its second year of operations, the MEDIA sub-programme supporting the film and television industries is set to focus more on promoting innovation following the September 2014 appointment of Lucia Recalde Langarica as head of unit.

Working in different positions at the European Commission since 1995, Langarica was most recently head of the commission’s higher education, innovation and entrepreneurship unit, and head of the European Institute of Technology (EIT).

“Something very close to my heart is fostering talent and the question of how can we make the best of the untapped potential that exists in Europe,” says Langarica, who hails from Spain’s Basque region.

“Innovation can be fostered by bringing people together from different backgrounds, disciplines and specialisations. For example, you could bring talented students from film academies, who want to become entrepreneurs, together with people who are already experienced in the business sector; or with artists from other disciplines or perhaps IT specialists who know the business from another vantage point. That is the best way to generate new ideas.

“Innovation is often seen only in technological terms, but in Creative Europe - MEDIA, one can also drive innovation through people and content,” she suggests.

Digital pilots

Creative Europe - and the preceding MEDIA 2007 programme - has already been supporting the development of progressive distribution and business models in the changing digital landscape, including VoD pilot projects such as TIDE and Wild Bunch’s Speed Bunch, experimenting with simultaneous or quasi-simultaneous releases in several European territories.

This year will see the MEDIA sub-programme also launching a pilot project ‘Fostering European integration through culture’ by providing new subtitled versions of selected TV programmes across all of Europe and looking at crowdsourcing subtitles to increase the circulation of European works.

At the same time, the first half of this year will see Langarica and her team focus on the final stage of negotiations with the European Investment Fund about the implementation of the proposed cultural and creative sectors guarantee facility under the Creative Europe programme from 2016.

Although the cultural and creative industries employ more than 3.2 million people and represent nearly 4.5% of the total business economy in Europe, the sector suffers from negative stereotypes when it comes to assessing economic performance.

This new financial instrument aims to make $145m (€121m) of guarantees available to support easier access to credit for cultural and creative small and medium-sized enterprises.

In the run-up to the launch of the facility, a programme of capacity building will be undertaken to provide financial institutions with the expertise to be able to work with cultural and creative entrepreneurs and assess their projects.

In addition, the plans for a European Film Forum, as proposed in the European Commission’s communication on ‘European film in the digital era’ in May 2014, will become more concrete.

“We have been waiting for guidance from our new political masters to determine the approach,” Langarica explains, adding that she should have more details when she attends next month’s Berlinale with Günther Oettinger, commissioner for digital economy and society, who is also now responsible for the MEDIA sub-programme.

“We will want to identify a number of issues which we consider particularly important and where there is some momentum,” Langarica continues. “The issues will determine the shape of the forum. We don’t want to re-invent the wheel or create groups for the sake of creating groups, but rather build on existing groups.

“For example, the communication highlighted the need for a complementarity between national and European funding, so that in such a case, we would rely on the expertise of the funders gathered in EFADs [European Film Agency Directors Network] to bring this dialogue forward.”

Broader policy framework

Meanwhile, in response to concerns from some quarters about the responsibilities for Creative Europe having being divided up between Oettinger and Tibor Navracsics, European commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, Langarica counters that this will not affect the running of the MEDIA sub-programme, but place it instead “within a broader policy framework”.

She points to the desire by the new European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to “de-silo” the commission and promote more horizontal collaboration between the commissioners’ directorates.

“All in all, we see real advantages because we can contribute as well as benefit from working together with other parts of the commission,”

Langarica explains. “In our case, this means us working hand in hand with the directorate general for education and culture to implement the [Creative Europe] programme.

“Moreover, we can also be closer to the colleagues preparing the review of the audiovisual media services directive and those working on plans for copyright reform in Europe.”