European media and culture ministers discussed the European Commission’s plans for a Digital Single Market (DSM) at this week’s Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council in Brussels.

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Latvia’s Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde, who chaired the meeting attended by colleagues from the 28 EU Member States, noted that there had been an ¨intensive¨ policy debate on future audiovisual policy.

Fresh from his visit to the Cannes Film Festival at the weekend, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger  outlined the Commission’s DSM package to the assembled ministers and senior civil servants and spoke later of ¨a constructive discussion¨ and  ¨a series of expectations and requests regarding the  audiovisual directive.¨

¨ All the ministers agreed that the Audiovisual Media Services Directive is a major cornerstone in the future audiovisual sector¨, Melbārde said, although there was ¨some concern¨ about the DSM’s impact on the competitiveness of small cultural areas and small languages and divisions among some ministers about the proposals for copyright reform and geoblocking.

The future of small markets in the future digital single market was particularly highlighted by Croatia’s Minister of Culture Berislav Sipus and his Slovenian opposite number  Julijana Bizjak Mlakar.

France’s Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin stressed the important of cultural diversity in the debate of the future of the European audiovisual sector, adding ¨we need to improve the access to works but not call territoriality into question.¨

Similarly, Germany’s State Minister for Culture and Media Monika Grütters noted that the importance of the territoriality principle had been evident from the meetings she had had in Cannes with concerned professionals.

¨We hope that the guidance given by ministers today will provide a valuable input for a refit of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive,¨ Melbārde said in concluding remarks, adding that “one of the issues that calls for immediate attention today regarding the European audiovisual policy is how can we balance freedom of expression with the public interest objectives of security and stability, while ensuring that the audiovisual landscape in Europe remains culturally diverse and competitive¨

European industry rallies forces

During this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the European Commission’s plans for its Digital Single Market Strategy have concentrated minds within the European film community to prepare unified responses.

The European Producers Club, Europa International, Europa Distribution and EuroVoD agreed to launch a focus group in order to pool ideas and present concrete solutions for improving the accessibility, distributon and circulation of films within Europe as part of an ongoing dialogue with the European Commission in Brussels

In addition, the international arthouse association CICAE met with Italian MEP Silvia Costa, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, to discuss the position of cinemas within the DSM strategy.

They stressed that the central role played by cinemas in the circulation of European cinema should not change in spite of the opening up of new distribution channels.  Minister Dace Melbārde

While Commissioner Oettinger has shown some understanding for the concerns of the film industry as far as the thorny issue of territoriality is concerned, it still remains to be seen whether his superior, Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip is prepared to clarify the mixed signals he has been giving by supporting territoriality, on the one hand, while at the same time rejecting ¨ absolute territorial exclusivity¨ by requiring that films be freely available throughout Europe once they appear on VoD services. (ends)