Org defies U.S., refuses to lift pic, TV limits

BRUSSELS — The European Union is continuing to flout U.S. pressure by refusing to lift quotas it has slapped on imports of films, TV shows and music, according to documents released Thursday by executive arm the European Commission.

The quotas are part of a “cultural exemption” won by the EU during the early 1990s to protect its creative industries.

The U.S. has been pushing for the EU to open up the audiovisual markets to full free trade at the next round of World Trade Organization talks.

However, France continues to jealously protect its film industry and has always been especially active in opposing change.

Some European officials argue that the gulf between the EU and U.S. is narrowing.

“We are still facing demands from the U.S. to open our audiovisual markets. However, these demands are much more moderate than they were,” EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy said on Tuesday. “This makes me think that the U.S. is perhaps beginning to understand our sensitivity about everything that affects the life of our culture.”

But he added that the EU would not be able to adopt the same attitude toward developing countries, which could create one rule for the U.S. and one for the rest of the world. “We can’t talk about cultural diversity and at the same time prevent Asian, African and Latin American countries from entering our markets,” he said.

A European spokesman for Hollywood’s Motion Picture Assn. agreed that the division between the U.S. and EU was not as great as before. “We understand that there should be special circumstances to maintain cultural diversity in entertainment,” he said. “Some countries have much more severe restrictions than others, and here you do see a dramatic impact on sales of foreign entertainment. I think there will continue to be pressure to ease restrictions in these countries.”

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