EXCLUSIVE: Plans by the European Commission (EC) to create a level playing field between high and low production capacity countries in its Creative Europe MEDIA sub-programme have come increasingly under fire from film distributors in the larger EU Member States.
There is a growing concern about the proposed changes to MEDIA’s automatic distribution scheme which would see a change in the parameters used for the calculation of a potential fund that would be available to distributors for further investments in recent non-national European films.
Under the existing guidelines, the amount of the potential fund is calculated by multiplying the number of eligible admissions by a fixed amount per admission.
For example, for distributors in Germany, Spain, France and Italy, this has meant 40 cents per eligible admission for films coming from France and the UK, 50 cents per admission for films from Germany, Spain and Italy, and 70 cents per admission for other eligible low production capacity countries.
Meanwhile, distributors from Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland and the UK are able to generate 45 cents per admission from French and UK films and 55 cents from their German, Spanish and Italian releases.
The Creative Europe Committee had established a working group to assess the impact of measures which had already been introduced into the MEDIA sub-programme last year to create a level playing field between the high and low production capacity countries.
Based on discussions within the working group, the EC has proposed recommendations to take effect from 2016, including changes to the parameters for MEDIA’s automatic distribution scheme for European non-national films.
These would see French and UK films generating only 25 cents per eligible admission - a 37.5% reduction over the existing amount - for German, Spanish, French and Italian distributors, and 40 cents (compared to 45) for films from Spain, Germany and Italy.
At the same time, the films from ¨smaller countries¨ could generate 90 cents per admission in future for German, Spanish, French or Italian distributors, as opposed to the present 70 Cents.
According to a statement by nine of the smaller Member States - from Austria to Slovakia - ¨there are bg differences between market realities in different countries of the EU and therefore there is a need to compensate for these structural weaknesses in the market structure and make it possible for the companies and projects from across the EU to compete on the same level.¨
These countries argued that ¨measures of positive discrimination that have been part of the MEDIA programme in the past 2007-2013 period have showed us clearly that such measures do not lead to disproportionate advantages for applicants from the low audiovisual capacity countries in contrast with the high audiovisual capacity countries.¨
They suggested that it is ¨necessary to try to update the current measures and to look at areas where changes are necessary and would contribute to even more chances for all the applicants.¨
However, the plans for even more positive discrimination in the funding measures has come in for severe criticism from the larger Member States, in particular from Germany.
Distributors in Germany have voiced their concerns about “a significant deterioration¨ in the MEDIA distribution funding for distributors in larger European territories, forecasting that the share of admissions for European films would ¨decrease sharply¨ if there is less and less funding allocated to those distributors for the release of films from large European countries.
¨It makes absolutely no kind of sense to set up a funding programme which does without the strongest films,¨ a document obtained by ScreenDaily declared
Despite commissioning numerous reports on various aspects of the European film industry to guide its policy, the EC seems at times to be unaware of the film industry’s market reality on the ground.
And German distributors have expressed frustration at what seems to be the Commission’s inability to appreciate the market conditions existing in particular between the national German film market and its neighbour Austria as it follows its policy of positive discrimination.
As a rule, admissions posted in Germany are considered to have a factor of around 10 compared to the attendances in Austria, i.e. 100,000 admissions in Germany will be equivalent to 10,000 in Austria.
But the guidelines for MEDIA’s automatic distribution support see the maximum number of admissions considered eligible to generate payment into a distributor’s fund as being 600,000 for German distributors, while the maximum threshold for Austria is set at 200,000 admissions (a factor of three).
The EC’s draft recommendations also propose modifications to the guidelines for the development, video games, TV programming and training in order to promote more positive discrimination.
The Strasbourg-based European Audiovisual Observatory is set to be entrusted by the EC with establishing a database for video-on-demand services and related statistical analysis in association with the revision of Audovisual Media Services Directive.
According to the EC, the database ¨should include detailed quantative and qualitative information on Video-on-Demand (VoD) service providers, genres of offered services, audience and availability, business models, technical features of the services, licensing, as well as overall country statistics around a number of indicators.
The initiative is part of a series of ¨measures concerning the digital content, and audiovisual and other media industries, related preparatory actions and evaluation activities.¨
Cooperation between Lithuania and France
This week saw Lithuania and France signing an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate cooperation between the two countries’ filmmakers.
This is the first bilateral agreement on film production to be signed by Lithania although it ratified the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production in 1999.
This agreement between France and Lithuania specifies that the films with the status of a co-production will be considered national in both countries and will be eligible for the support offered for such films.
The German Federal Film Board (FFA) and Portugal’s Instituto de Cinema e Audiovisual (ICA) have succeeded in persuading their respective governments to make changes to the current bilateral co-production agreement.
In future, it will be easier for producers from both countries to embark on joint projects after the introduction of more flexible conditions for minority participation.
Until now, the agreement from 1988 had required a minority co-producer to participate with at least 30%, but this will now be relaxed to enable a minimum participation of only 10%. (ends)