Germany’s broadcasters will be required to make statutory payments to the German Federal Film Board (FFA) in future after the Bundestag passed an amendment to the existing German Film Law (FFG) on Friday [11].

Until now, only payments by theatrical exhibitors and the video industry had been written into law, while the broadcasters had always been able to negotiate contributions on a voluntary basis.

A Film/Television Agreement concluded between the FFA and public broadcasters ARD and ZDF for 2004-2008 had seen the TV channels committing €15.6m annually to co-productions with the film industry, while the private broadcasters had made €12.01m available each year for media campaigns of German films.

According to the amendment, which is backdated to the beginning of this year, the level of the broadcasters’ contributions to the FFA will now be calculated according to the number of features – German and foreign – programmed in the channels’ schedules.

The unequal treatment in the past had led to a group of cinema chains bringing a legal action against the FFA. The German Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled at the end of February 2009 that the FFA’s cinema levy was unconstitutional, with the case being referred to the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. A final decision is expected this autumn.

Speaking during the Bundestag’s debate on the amendment, Angelika Krüger-Leissner, the spokesperson on film policy for the SPD opposition party, said that the introduction of statutory levies for the broadcasters would create “legal certainty” for the FFA and could “clear up the objections of the Federal Administrative Court.”

There are hopes that the passing of the amendment will render superfluous the need for proceeding with the cinema chains’ court action to the Federal Constitutional Court and that all of the cinemas will now make their payments to the FFA unconditional in future.

Furthermore, the vote could now clear the way for Germany’s national and regional politicians to return to discussions with the film industry about a programme for state support for the digitisation of cinemas.