European Commission VP Joaquín Almunia has tried to allay EU member states’ concerns about the forthcoming Cinema Communication, which aims to set out new State aid rules for films and other audiovisual works.

Speaking during the second day of the Council of Ministers of Education, Youth, Culture and Sport, Almunia responded to concerns from the French delegation about the impact of the Commission’s revised Communication on the competitiveness of the European film industry.

An official communique reported that Almunia, who is responsible for Competition Policy, “considers that the new draft Communication already takes into account many of the concerns expressed by member states, but is willing to resume consultations in January, stressing the need to progress quickly.”

“Furthermore, he underlined that he is in general favourable to aid territoriality, but within the internal market rules which are compatible with protection of European cinema and culture,” the missive observed.

In fact, ahead of the meeting in Brussels, Almunia’s spokesman Antoine Colombani had confirmed to Screen that the indicative timetable has the new Cinema Communication now being adopted “in the first quarter of 2013” rather in the final quarter of 2012, as originally planned.

Focus on Creative Europe amendments 

Meanwhile, just a stone’s throw away from the Council’s home in the Justus Lipsius Building, the European Parliament’s (EP) Committee on Culture and Education convened at the Altiero Spinelli Building on Tuesday morning (Nov 27) to discuss, among other things, the amendments tabled by fellow committee members and other EP committees for the proposed Creative Europe regulation.

Commenting on the amendments, MEDIA unit chief Aviva Silver said that many of the amendments “enrich the discusssion”, but qualified this by noting that a large number would result in a widening of the scope of the programme - “something which, quite honestly, would be impossible to implement with no major increase of budget and which, in addition, overlaps with other programmes of the EU.”

She added that some of the amendments “suggest splitting this framework programme into two sub-programmes and we would not be in favour of that. We are aware of the important differences in value chains between the audiovisual and other cultural and creative sectors, and this is fully reflected in the two separate strands.”

Confusion

Moreover, Silver argued that there was “some confusion” regarding the financial facility as to whether banks can request personal collaterals. “They should not, but they make look for collaterals in the form of IPR on the projects that are being supported,” she observed.

While the committee’s chairperson Doris Pack was critical of all of the points not accepted by the Commission, she argued that it would be “a good idea in this programme to whittle away the amount of paper and forms. We want to have a concise application form so that people are not discouraged from applying. It’s mostly British consulting firms who turn up to help these poor schmucks fill in the forms, so let’s have user and culture-friendly forms!”

Silver countered that the Commission was already looking for “much stronger simplification”.

“We have already introduced e-forms and are looking to extend this as far as possible, and the use of lump sums is part of that.

“Thus,for digitisation in the current MEDIA Programme, there is a flat rate of €20,000.”