Cultural exception made for France

EU constitution victory for Gallic reps

BRUSSELS — European countries are likely to continue restricting the amount of U.S. films, TV and music that can be broadcast on their TV and radio networks after France won the latest battle to safeguard its “cultural exception.”

As the negotiations over a new European Union constitution drew to a close in Brussels, the French government made its approval of the text dependent on its right to continue protecting its film and TV industries from foreign competition in international trade negotiations.

Paris has been struggling for several years to protect its cultural sector from the U.S. entertainment industry, introducing quotas for the broadcasting of European-made films and TV programs. The French government feared that the competition law included in the draft constitution would jeopardize the future of its heavily subsidized film biz.

Under the terms of the draft constitution, EU countries will be able to veto any trade deal which “risks prejudicing the Union’s cultural and linguistic diversity.” EU officials, however, stress that countries using the veto will have to provide concrete proof of an actual threat to cultural diversity across the 15-nation bloc.

Negotiations on the draft form of the treaty are due to last for six months. All 25 member states of the enlarged Union will sign the final version in mid-2004, with the constitution due to come into force in 2005.

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