Swiss filmmakers will be able to participate fully in the EuropeanUnion's MEDIA Programme from January 1, 2006 after being excluded for the lastthirteen years.

Swiss media professionals had been barred from MEDIA after the Swisspopulation voted in December 1992 against membership of the European EconomicArea (EEA).

Subsequently, in an effort to cover the negative fallout from exclusionfrom MEDIA, the Swiss federal government provided a special credit for theso-called MEDIA Alternative Measures from 1993. These made $2.2m (CHF 2.8m)available each year to support activities in the areas of training,development, distribution/sales and promotion to encourage cross-bordercontacts and business relationships with European counterparts.

As from next year, the Swiss government will be making a $5m annualcontribution towards the costs of MEDIA, and the film industry's Europeaninformation and liaison office euroinfo will now become the Swiss MEDIA Desk,with an office to be established in the French speaking region.

Commenting on Switzerland's return to the MEDIA fold, Marc Wehrlin,deputy director of the Federal Office of Culture (BAK), said: "The Swiss filmindustry will have to orientate itself (even) more to Europe. That means bettercompetitive chances and a harsher competition. But the past has shown thatsmaller countries can hold their own in this competition."

*Swiss public broadcaster SRG-SSR has increased its financial commitmentto the local film industry by 14.8% over the next three years.

On signing a new film/television coproduction agreement, the so-called"Pacte de l'audiovisuel", SRG-SSR will provide a total of $50m (CHF57.9m)between 2006 and 2008, up $6m from the present accord running between2003-2005.

The agreement concluded with six film industry trade associations inSwitzerland "despite the difficult financial environment" covers feature filmco-productions, animation films, television productions, and the "succespassage antenne" retroactive support.