Rattled Euro toppers rally

Execs band together to protect media biz

MADRID — If anyone thinks the European Union’s constitution fiasco will weaken its resolve to protect its film and TV industries, they had better think again.

Five days before France’s May 29 “no” vote on the constitution, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson wrote to the Brussels-based European Film Cos. Alliance emphasizing the European Commission had no intention of introducing film and TV into its revised General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) offer.

Little has changed since then.

Ironically, the proposed constitution allowed EU member states to reverse this stance by a qualified majority.

The constitution’s rejection leaves the EU needing unanimous agreement to jettison its cultural exception. And since all EU governments back the exception, that won’t happen anytime soon.

Meanwhile, plans to perpetuate the two bastions of the EU film and TV policy are rapidly coming to a head.

On May 30, EU Information and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding confirmed the EU would modernize and extend the Television Without Frontiers Directive, incorporating online services.

The EU’s keystone broadcasting regulation, the directive obliges Euro broadcasters to dedicate majority airtime to European programming where practicable and commission 10% of shows from independent producers.

“A majority of member states favor maintaining the status quo” on quotas, Reding says.

“What’s quite striking is the commitment to leave many things as they are, such as quotas for TV services and the absence of any clear suggestion that quotas will be applied to new services, such as online delivery,” says Blighty film and TV consultant Jonathan Davis.

Reding is backed up by an EC-commissioned report, published May 25.

Led by David Graham & Associates, it concludes that the directive has influenced many larger broadcasters’ programming choices.

Two days earlier, EU culture ministers backed a new Media Program funneling E1 billion ($1.23 billion) into local film and TV industries between 2007 and 2013.

That budget may be shaved, though not scythed, if EU leaders, bruised by the constitutional crisis, decide to cut the EU’s 2007-13 budget, according to Philippe Kern, EFCA secretary general.

But culture ministers’ approval is still vital for a Media Program, which looks set to continue targeting development, pan-Euro pic distribution, promotion and training.

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