€5.5m will be made available for online distribution initiatives.

The EU’s Creative Europe programme is to make €5.5m available for online distribution initiatives for the circulation of European audiovisual works.

A total of €3.65m is to be earmarked for supporting European VOD services over 16 months from Sept 1, 2014 until Dec 31, 2015, which aims “at improving the presence, the visibility and the global audience of European audiovisual works.”

The proposed actions will have to offer a European dimension, which means that the offered content must include audiovisual works from at least five countries participating in the MEDIA sub-programme representing at least five different official languages of the European Union.

Some €500,000 is reserved for a second action line to assemble and deliver “digital packages facilitating the commercialisation of European audiovisual works on VoD services provided in countries where those works are not available”.

The catalogues of “online ready” packages should focus on European audiovisual works with commercial potential. Each title of the catalogue needs to have been sold for theatrical or TV distribution in at least five countries participating in the MEDIA sub-programme.

A total of €1m is for projects experimenting with simultaneous or quasi-simultaneous releases of European films on a wide range of distribution platforms (such as festivals, cinemas, DVD, VoD services and television channels) and in a number of European territories.

Each of the films in the multiplatform releases must be released in at least three countries participating in the MEDIA sub-programme, and the action should aim at developing new business models.

The second and third actions would be expected to last for 12 months from Jan 1, 2015.

UNIC opposes EC support for day and date releases

However, the European Commission’s (EC) continuing support for day-and-day releases in cinemas and on VoD remains a bone of contention with European exhibitors.

The publication of the support programme for online distribution initiatives is unlikely to change their opinion.

In a response to the EC’s Communication on European Film in the Digital Era, Phil Clapp, president of the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), argued that “the European Commission would be well advised to show more trust in the industry as well as their colleagues at national level to decide when and where films should be released”.

“The vast majority of cinema owners remain in favour of the maintenance of a sustainable and legitimate VOD offer as declining revenues in home entertainment – affected by illegal streaming services – hurt the entire film ecosystem,” Clapp continued.

“However, new digital platforms have so far for the most part failed to share any meaningful data about their economic or cultural contributions to European cinema.”

“Our objective when working with European policy makers and other partners in the future will therefore be to put the Big Screen and its many unparalleled social, cultural and economic contributions at the centre of the new agenda for European film,” he concluded.

UK’s Film Club initiative championed by Vassiliou

Meanwhile, the UK’s Film Club after-school initiative was discussed at this week’s session of the European Council of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Ministers in Brussels .

European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said that she personally considered the project to be “an example of best practice in media literacy, since it boosts the children’s literacy, critical thinking and film-making skills”.

A UK-based charity organisation, Film Club was launched in 2007 by writer Lindsay Mackie and film-maker Beeban Kidron as a 25-school pilot and now reaches over 200,000 children in 7,000 school film clubs each week.

At the end of last year, Baroness Kidron had met with Commissioner Vassiliou in Brussels to inform her about the experiences of Film Club, since promoting media literacy among children and young people is one of the key goals of the new Creative Europe programme.