The inaugural “Central European Initiative; Balaton Festival,” a television arts competition and programming market, opened Monday with 60 industry reps from seven European countries in attendance.Organizers hope that this seven-day festival, being held in the town of Keszthely on the southwestern shore of Hungary’s Lake Balaton, will help revitalize the region’s struggling media sector. “The goal is to work together in the region and strengthen our activities in the (television) field,” said fest organizer Zsuzsa Haverla, head of the sales department for Hungary State Television (MTV). The chief East European participants include Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary — the region’s most noted economic leaders and stalwart war survivors. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the Ukraine number among Eastern Bloc guests. Reps from the U.S., Austria, Italy and Bavaria also arein attendance. According to Haverla, the festival will be a forum for regional broadcasters to promote their programming. Organizers are touting the event as a cultural showcase of Eastern European TV and film art. But participants reportedly will be searching for more than aesthetics at this fest. Haverla said the initiative is designed to “encourage” co-productions and joint-venture agreements between regional partners in the areas of TV programming, docu films, movies and the production of commercials. Special emphasis will be placed on commercials. Organizers said one of the greatest challenges of Eastern Europe’s TV sector, emerging from four decades of almost complete state sponsorship, is developing the know-how and technology to satisfy advertisers. “We want to know which way the commercial industry is moving in the region, and the level (of expertise) of our neighbors,” said Haverla. “That’s why the festival is important. Maybe Polish commercials are better than Hungarian ones. We need to find out.” The festival’s main setback has been in enticing clients, especially in light of the deluge of major-league markets regularly hosted in Europe. “We would have liked for there to have been more foreign western TV companies here,” said Haverla. Lack of West European interest in the event has been blamed on the relatively small size of the markets represented at the fest. Another setback seems to be its timing. According to one buyer in the region, the Balaton Festival falls too close on the heels of the well-publicized DISCOP-EAST ’93 TV market, which ended June 12.
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