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International News Briefs: Industry Highlights from Around the World

ITALY

Meet Mr. Digital Agenda
Italy’s underdeveloped digital landscape is poised for a quantum leap forward, with prime minister Enrico Letta pushing a so-called Digital Agenda, which among other things could pave the way for the arrival of Netflix. In a tweet on June 13, Letta announced the appointment of Francesco Caio as “Mr. Digital Agenda.” Caio has long been pushing for better broadband infrastructure; a recent EU Commission report said Italy lags behind most of Europe in broadband speed, penetration and Internet use. The report added that 37% of the Italo population has never used the Internet, compared with an average 22% in the rest of the EU.

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Sky Italia Ups Scrosati
Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia has appointed Andrea Scrosati as exec VP of programming, adopting the single-structure management model for programming used by BSkyB in the U.K. and Sky Deutschland in Germany. Scrosati, formerly in charge of film, entertainment and third-party channels at Sky Italia, will oversee all content outside sports, which remains a separately run entity.
— Nick Vivarelli

PAKISTAN

Tax Could Hit Foreign Fare
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has proposed a tax that could bite Hollywood, Bollywood and Turkish TV. Dar wants a levy of $17,200 per film and $1,720 per television episode for imported product, saying the tax is being proposed to make foreign-based films and dramas “competitive” with the local film industry. Bollywood films, Indian TV programs, Hollywood and dubbed Turkish soaps are hugely popular here. The Pakistan Film Exhibitors Assn. is not happy, and intends to raise the issue with authorities before it becomes law.
— Naman Ramachandran

INDIA

Veep Blasts Media
India’s vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari told a gathering of the National Union of Journalists that dubious ownership has eroded the credibility of the media. Ansari cited a Telecom Regulatory Authority of India report that claimed most of the nation’s 300-odd news channels are operating at a loss and are “dependent on dubious cross-holdings, black money infusion and dodgy private equity investors, foreign and Indian.” He added that the media is adopting “unethical methods” and called for regulations on media ownership.

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Sony TV Arm Bows Pic
Multi Screen Media India, a subsid of Sony Entertainment Television, launches its first bigscreen pic July 26, the Hindi-lingo “Bajate Raho,” helmed by Shashant Shah. The pic, a revenge comedy, is a co-production between Eros Intl. and Multi Screen Media, which operates channels Sony Entertainment, Sab, Pix and Six. MSM Motion Pictures has three more films in production. Sony Pictures Entertainment India ventured into film production with 2007’s “Saawariya,” which failed at the box office.
— Naman Ramachandran

MEXICO

Calling All Cabs
“Libre para amarte” (“Free to Love”), a telenovela about a female taxi driver, bowed June 17 in primetime on Televisa family channel Canal de las Estrellas — with a special audio track on XEQ Radio in Mexico City that targets taxi drivers. The comedy-meller stars Mexican warbler Gloria Trevi as a woman trying to make her way in life, working as a taxi driver. The audio feed also will feature voiceover commentary by talkradio host and taxi driver Kokodrilo.
— John Hopewell

BRAZIL

Country Gets a Toon-Up
Luiz Bolognesi’s “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury,” the first Brazilian competition entry at France’s Annecy Animation Festival, won the fest’s top feature Crystal on June 16. A love story threading through 600 years of Brazilian history, the pic represents a burgeoning Latin American toon industry that’s growing most quickly in TV. Also at Annecy, Pablo Castillo and Leonardo Beltran’s computer 2D “Cagemates,” written by Carlos Bleycher, the story of two petshop escapees, won the Disney Channel Award at the fest’s TV Series Creative Focus section. Chile’s Zumbastico Studios produced.
— John Hopewell

SCANDINAVIA

Scandi Crime a Huge Hit
The global success of Scandinavian crime dramas was underlined by the first Nordicana, a two-day fest in London. Launched by U.K. distrib Arrow Films and backed by literary network English Pen, the June 15-16 confab played episodes of skeins such as “Borgen,” “The Killing” and “The Bridge,” plus 12 pics, including “The Hunt,” “Easy Money” and “The King of Devil’s Island.” Guests included “Borgen” creator Adam Price and stars Sidse Babett Knudsen and Lars Knutzon; “The Killing” thesp Marie Askehave; and author David Hewson , who novelized “The Killing.”
— Elsa Keslassy

IRELAND

Smartphone Mania
Almost half of Ireland’s 4.6 million population own smartphones, and are spending 300% more time online on them compared with 2011, according to research conducted by mobile and broadband operator Three. Ownership of smartphones has increased 53% from 2012; 56% of users check their devices before breakfast.

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Curtains for Pirate Bay
Ireland’s High Court has ordered Internet service providers Vodafone, Digiweb, UPC, Imagine, Telefonica O2 and Hutchison 3G to block filesharing site Pirate Bay. Music labels EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner Music have said that 200,000 people in Ireland use Pirate Bay, causing annual losses of $26.7 million. ISP Eircom has been voluntarily blocking Pirate Bay since 2009. There have been similar court-ordered blocks in the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and Belgium, but the site has been circumventing these by putting up proxy sites. The Irish order covers the blocking of proxy sites, too.
— Naman Ramachandran

SPAIN

Smaller Brother
In its 14th edition, the finale of Spain’s “Big Brother” rated only a second-place finish in its Tuesday timeslot, for the first time ever. Its nemesis: a first-season episode of Shine-produced “MasterChef,” which earned a 20 share, compared with the 16.5 for Gran Hermano. As TV advertising diminishes across much of Europe — not just its south but now in France, for example — broadcasters are turning to reality TV for relatively cheap event programming. But some events are proving bigger than others. The way to a Spaniard’s heart appears to be increasingly through his stomach.
— John Hopewell

FRANCE

‘Reactionary’ Label Spurs Reaction
French showbiz fi gures were horrified when European Commission prexy Jose Manuel Barroso said June 17 that France’s stance toward globalization is “reactionary,” in referring to French protests against the inclusion of cultural services in the free trade negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union.

The U.S. and EU trade goods and services worth an estimated $2 billion a day, but the French led the protest to exclude cultural items in their pact (Variety, June , No. 3). Barroso told the international Herald Tribune, “Some of those (who defend France’s cultural exception) say they are left, but they are actually extremely reactionary.”

In response, director Radu Mihaileanu called Barroso “either blind, deaf or insincere.” French minister of culture Aurelie Filippetti denounced Barroso’s declarations as “unacceptable” and pointed out that the audiovisual industry represented 3.3% of the gross domestic product and 6.7% of jobs in Europe.

“Destroying the cultural exception (by considering culture as a commercial good) would result in aggravating the economic crisis,” Filippetti told French journos.

There are rumors the European Commission will try to reinstate the debate over the inclusion of culture in the free-trade talks, but Filippetti said the EU would need to obtain a unanimous vote of all member states, which is a non-starter.
— Elsa Keslassy

(Compiled by Tim Gray.)

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