Europa Distribution has warned that the European Commission’s proposed single digital market would be a “catastrophe” for the independent film sector.

Speaking to ScreenDaily at the Rome International Film Festival (Oct 16-25), where the indie distribution network held its annual general meeting, general manager Christine Eloy said: “The big topic of our AGM was the single digital market, which would be a catastrophe for the whole audiovisual sector, not only the distribution sector, if it comes to pass.”

EC politicians believe that that too many barriers still block the free flow of online services and entertainment across national borders.

The EC’s recently published Digital Agenda aims to ‘update EU single market rules for the digital era’ with the ambition of ‘boosting the music download business, establishing a single area for online payments, and further protecting EU consumers in cyberspace.’

However, according to Europa Distribution the Commission’s proposed pan-European digital market could have devastating effects on European independent distributors and on audiences.

Recently appointed Europa Distribution co-president Laurent Dutoit of Agora Films explained the sector’s fears: “The main problem is that this model will concentrate attention on only a few titles [leading to many distributors going out of business].

“It will be impossible to make films by successful independent directors known in certain territories if the distributor isn’t in business to do the job.”

Eloy, former head of sales at Cineart, added: “We understand that viewing habits are changing but changes must take place gradually. The single online market will kill independent cinema.

“Without local distributors’ knowledge audiences will be deprived of a diverse range of films. This model simply won’t work. Dialogue must start now.”

Director Ursula Meier, Europa Distribution honorary president, told Screen that safeguarding territoriality is key to a healthy distribution ecosystem: “I have spent a lot of time showing my films around Europe and the rest of the world.

“I work closely with distributors and each one works differently in each country. I am totally supportive of Europa Distribution’s position.

“Today’s big question is distribution. It’s an exciting question that we have to resolve as an industry as a whole through dialogue.”

However, the director of Sister - which won a Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlinale - admitted that some directors wouldn’t be aware of the EC’s plans or their importance: “Directors are very much implicated in this but this is a new issue so there will be some who aren’t aware of it.”

The pressure group is currently arranging meetings with MEPs in order to convey their concerns.

During the network’s AGM, attended by around 70 distributors, the group announced that it has secured two further years of financial support from Creative Europe, via the Access to Market scheme.