EC previews Green Paper

European Commission audiovisual chief Joao de Deus Pinheiro has given a sneak preview of his strategy for restructuring the European Union’s troubled audiovisual industry — due to be released in full in an important Green Paper next week.

Downplaying earlier reports of taxes on entertainment and publicly funded loans that are sure to raise hackles in the U.S., Pinheiro said Thursday that the real key to the success of EU audiovisual policy is programs and catalogs.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, he said the principal goal of the commission was to develop a strategy to strengthen Europe’s program industry.

Pinheiro’s announcement tallied closely with versions of the Green Paper that were leaked to the press.

He appeared eager, however, to distance himself from the leaked proposals of his own personally appointed think tank of film and TV industry heavyweights. Chaired by Portuguese film and TV producer Antonio-Pedro Vasconcelos, the members of the panel include David Puttnam, Peter Fleischmann, Michele Cotta and Enrique Balmaseda Arias-Davila.

In a report delivered last month to DGX, the EU directorate for information, communication and culture, the think tank called for levies on movie tickets, broadcasting receipts and video rentals to provide capital for investment in program production. It also called for publicly funded soft-loan support to pan-European distribution consortia.

Such proposals have caused alarm among U.S. film companies, which are strongly opposed to levies and subsidies for the audiovisual industry in Europe.

Ivan Hodac, senior vice president of Time Warner Europe, told Daily Variety that levies would be impracticable to raise and distribute, and any form of subsidy could create distortion in the market.

His other main concern was the position of American producers working in Europe. “If Americans shot in Europe,” he wondered, “would they also be able to benefit from funds raised by levies in Europe?”

Pinheiro was careful to point out that the think-tank report would be included as a separate part of the forthcoming Green Paper on audiovisual policy , distinct from the strategy document prepared by DGX.

The think-tank report, he said, was “rich in analysis and suggestions” but stressed that it “reflects the opinions of its authors and as such does not constitute an institutional document approved by the college of commissioners.”

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