Bill would force commercial networks to help subsidize film fund

PRAGUE — The Czech Parliament is moving forward on a bill that will force terrestrial TV companies to contribute to a fund for local film, ending years of stubborn resistance from the webs.

The bill calls on commercial broadcasters to fork over 2% of advertising coin, which could generate some $15.4 million annually, making them the largest source by far for the Czech Cinematography Fund.

Nearly every local pic — and most co-productions — draw on the cash source, which stands at $2 million. The fund also pays for upgrading aging cinemas.

Up to now, it’s been fed by royalties from the national film archives and advertising revenue from pubcaster Czech TV.

Under the current deal, however, the state channel will stop selling ads once the digitization of broadcasting is complete this year.

Instead, it will have to rely on TV users’ license fees of $7.50 per household a month. That fee was upped recently from $5 but the pubcaster, which runs four channels, is under pressure to slash budgets and staff.

Complicating matters is Czech TV’s role in supporting local films; it is as important a source as the Czech Film Fund. Czech TV declined comment Thursday, as did dominant commercial station TV Nova.

Local bizzers are skeptical that TV Nova, owned by Ron Lauder’s Central European Media Enterprises, will actually give up the funds without a fight.

Czech producers and the Czech Film Commission have pushed for years to tap private broadcasters as Poland and France does. The far more robust output of Polish and French pics offer a lesson in how a healthy film funding system should work, according to the plan’s backers.

Commission topper Jana Cernikova calls the film tax essential for the future of the local industry, saying the Film Act had not been updated since 1992, “and since then the film industry has changed.”

As well as the tax on terrestrials, exhibs will have to pay a 1% tax on ticket sales. They also face a VAT tax hike next year and may well argue that they should be exempt from the film fund.

The levy will come into force in 2013, with money flowing into the film fund midway through that year.

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