With its proposed budget of over Euros 1bn, the new Media Programme (MEDIA 2007), which will run from 2007 to 2013, aims to double the number of European films that are currently distributed outside their own country of origin.

During a meeting in Venice, European Union Commissioner Viviane Reding said that only 10% of European movies currently find distribution outside their own territory's borders.

"We know that films sell well in their national market. But that's where it stops. By 2013, we hope to increase that figure to 20%, and we will also be actively working to make sure that films get distributed outside Europe too," Reding said.

Nine out of ten European films that are sold internationally are currently supported by the Media Programme, Reding explained, citing the illustrious example of Good Bye Lenin!, which received Media Programme funds for development and distribution.

MEDIA 2007's proposed Euros 1bn budget, up from the currently Programme's Euros 493m, will also be used to give more financial support to small and medium-sized businesses, Reding said.

Media will also specifically support the burgeoning film industries of the ten new countries that have recently joined the EU.

"These countries are now trying to build a new cinema industry. They need our specific help. We will, for example, help students from those countries come to our film schools with the help of scholarships," Reding said.

Meanwhile, Reding explained that the EU audiovisual sector will now be under the direct control of the EU's Information and Media Department, which deals with the telecommunications industry, among others.

Until now, the audiovisual sector had been under the control of the EU Culture and Education Department.

Nevertheless, Reding reassured producers, distributors and directors attending the conference that the film industry would continue to receive the same attention from the EU as it has in the past.

"A film is a work of art and not a bunch of potatoes, so it can't and won't be treated like any other commercial product," she said.

In its seven-year budget breakdown, MEDIA says Euros 318m will be allocated for the improvement of skills and project development; Euros 566m for distribution, exhibition and promotion; Euros 52m for pilot projects; Euros 34.7m for institutions such as the network of MEDIA Desks and the European Audiovisual Observatory; and Euros 85m for administrative costs.

The MEDIA 2007 programme is now awaiting approval from the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament before the end of 2005.