Callsfor new tax incentives to benefit the German film industry received a welcomeboost from the CDU opposition party which is widely predicted to win powerfollowing September's general election.

Speakingat the party's film reception ahead of this year's German film Awards, chairwomanAngela Merkel told producers "the German cinema has a firm place in ourpolitical work."

Sheadmitted that the issue of private film financing "is a complex matterbecause, on the one hand, it is naturally hard for us to explain to Germancitizens why we are supporting foreign film productions with tax reliefschemes, and on the other, the complete abolition of these media funds wouldlead to a situation where many of the production companies in Germany would nolonger have any future."

Accordingto the CDU's media policy spokesperson Bernd Neumann, "the goal must be tohave fiscal parameters which are comparable with elsewhere in Europe" inorder to attract private capital into the German film industry.

"Itdoesn't have to be the funds in the form as they existed until now, butsomething must come because we otherwise won't have any chance at all ofkeeping the film industry competitive," he said.

Meanwhile,Lower Saxony's prime minister Christian Wulff joined the "Germanspend" debate at a dinner given in his honour by German Film Productionson the eve of the Lolas ceremony.

Hesuggested that "if the operators of the media funds succeeded in acquiringaround Euros 1.5bn from private investors in Germany last year, then as much ofthis as possible must be invested in Germany.

"Iwould be pleased if there could be a clear, constitutionally sound ruling whichoffers investors incentives to direct private capital specifically into Germanproductions."

Thesecomments came as a group of leading film industry figures including StudioHamburg's Sytze van der Laan, VIP Medienfonds' Andreas Schmid and EquityPictures' Josef Lautenschlager launched the Medieninitiative! Deutschland.

Initially,the campaign has three goals "which will have immediate effects on thelabour market and can be financed from the voluntary commitment by theparticipating media funds."

Thethree goals are:

1. The beginning of a discussion about thegeneral parameters in the competition with other European regions and finding adefence strategy for the German film industry;

2.The adaptation of the current existing financing and incentive instruments bythe immediate integration of national effects ("German spend");

3.Preservation of existing and creation of new jobs in the German mediaindustry."