"Filmeducation and training are to be put at the heart of the next version of theEuropean Union's Media Programme," said EU culture and education commissionerViviane Reding yesterday.

"Wewill not harmonise training. We will maintain national specificity. But we willput all the training programmes together in a new network with a new name:Young Film-Makers Take-Off Initiative." The name is a reference to Take Off an early film by Milos Forman,the Czech director who chaired the discussions in Cannes.

Theannouncements were made after a meeting of the EU's 25 culture ministers inCannes and may have come in response to a growing chorus of doubt about thefuture of Media Programme after 2007 when the current Media Plus version runsout.

In asurprisingly strongly worded statement the members of European Film AgencyDirectors (EFAD), the body that groups all the national film controlorganizations yesterday warned that Media programme budgets must be maintainedat workable levels.

"Wethe [EFAD] view with concern any proposal that would diminish the commitmentand resource at a European level which supports the policies aimed at acompetitive and diverse audio-visual sector in Europe," it said in a statement.

EFADis reportedly alarmed at the idea that funding for the audio-visual industriescould alternatively be funnelled through the EU's overall budget for "culture."It is feared that the 10 new EU member states may suffer as financial cutbacksare made. Reding poured cold water on that by saying: "The specific problems ofthe new countries will be treated separately."Herwords yesterday may comfort the national agencies that make up EFAD. Any movesto put training and development at the centre of the fourth Media programmewill allow production funding to continue to be concentrated at national level.

Meanwhile,Reding also unveiled the first Media New Talent Award and awarded it to the UKdirector Duane Hopkins for his screenplay BetterThings. The rural tale of angst and generational conflict, presented atthis year's CineMart, will receive Euros 50,000 of development aid and be givena "development model" with the help of industry mentors.