EU coin up but falls short

Media Program's budget less than expected

First, the bad news.

The writing’s been on the wall for months, but European Media Commissioner Viviane Reding confirmed here Tuesday that the Media Program’s new budget is far less than she had requested.

The good news: The budget could have been worse.

Media Program is Europe’s main subsidy plan for film and TV. As in the past, the new program will focus on training, distribution and promotion of Euro works in Europe plus a larger film export drive, Reding confirmed.

Its budget for 2007-13 is €755 million ($967.5 million). Reding requested $1.35 billion last year. The coin was approved Thursday at a European council of ministers, Reding told Variety. After the EU’s constitutional crisis in May that saw the French vote “no” on the constitution, some countries, led by France, Germany and the U.K., pushed to reduce the EU’s overall budget for 2007-13.

In September, the Media Program’s overall budget looked like it could be scythed to $820 million. It took opposition from the European Parliament to push the final budget up to its now official tally.

Whether that’s enough to sustain an efficient support system for film and TV is another question.

Coin for the 2001-05 Media Program, which has seen a oneyear extension, was $624.8 million.

“We are satisfied that this modest increase will allow us to continue to work with the Media Program, even though not in the ideal way. But we will have to set priorities,” said Martin Selmayr, spokesman for information society and media at the European Commission, which runs the EU.

“We’re disappointed,” countered an industryite, who preferred to remain nameless. “It’s not much more money, the EU now has 10 more states, and the film and TV industry has far more problems.”

On Tuesday EU audiovisual ministers approved the idea of extending Europa Cinemas to countries outside Europe.

That Media Program initiative gives prizes to cinemas in Europe that emphasize European films. Selmayr said the program could go to Brazil, Argentina and China. Tuesday was Cannes’ Europe Day, which also saw the signing of a charter by telcos, broadcasters and other content suppliers (including the BBC, France Telecom, Time Warner and Zentropa).

In the elaborately named European Charter for the Development and the Take-Up of Film Online, the companies commit to fight piracy, make legitimate content available and try to agree on online windows — but not much more.

“The charter is a recognition that piracy on the digital networks is subsidizing the broadband roll out. Unfortunately it runs short of confronting ISPs and telcos’ liabilities in making online an opportunity for European films,” said Philippe Kern, from the European Film Companies Alliance.

Europe’s upcoming TV Without Frontiers directive looks to go further, allowing individual countries in Europe to oblige telcos to invest in European film and TV.

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