Backing comes as nations cut arts funding

Increased support for digitization, broadcasting and new audiovisual platforms are likely to feature in the next phase of the European Union’s Media Program, due to run for seven years from 2014.

EU culture commissioner Androulla Vasiliou is in Cannes to celebrate 20 years of the program, which spends €125 million ($177 million) a year subsidizing pan-European distribution, development, training, festivals, marketing and promotion.

Vasiliou — who has won support of European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso for strengthening the program — is consulting with the film industry before drawing up a new budget proposal.

Against a background of national government austerity measures across Europe, with cultural funding under intense pressure, Vasiliou defends the program as a pillar of the EU’s 2020 Strategy for job creation through investing in new skills.

“Let’s face it — the film industry creates jobs,” she told Variety. “There are eight million jobs in Europe within the wider audiovisual industry, five million of them in film.”

Overall, the film, television and audiovisual industry accounts for around 4.5% of EU gross domestic product.

Media program support has played a part in the success of many acclaimed European films, including Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” which won Cannes Palme d’Or in 2009, and Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.”

Radu Mihaileanu, the Paris-based, Romanian-born director of Cannes competition film “The Source” — and president of French producers‘ association ARP — said the program should be expanded to give greater support for digitizing small cinemas, support world sales and help other areas, such as video gaming.

“The Media program is very important for the European film and audiovisual industry. Culture is the foundation of your house and if that is not built your house falls down,” he said.

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