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GAUL’S 75% SOLUTION

INDIE INVESTMENT QUOTA PUSHED FOR WEBS

PARIS — French Culture Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy is to put forward legislation guaranteeing that the country’s television networks devote 75% of their film production investments to the independent sector.

The move comes as Gallic pics show renewed life at the domestic box office with a 36% market share last year, two points up on 1995. The independent production sector, however, has increasingly gravitated towards the major French groups such as pay TV giant Canal Plus or private web TF1. Canal Plus has a series of housekeeping deals with indies, as well as shares in Les Films Alain Sarde and its own film production arm Studio Canal Plus. Last year, TF1 bought a minority stake in respected production house Film Par Film.

Ministry sources told Daily Variety that the new legislation is an anticipatory move, as the webs currently channel over 80% of their film investment into the independent sector. ”It’s a question of making sure that the independent sector remains independent in the future,” noted a Ministry insider.

Last September, Douste-Blazy made it clear that he wanted television higher-ups and the film production community to open discussions on how the webs could continue to support indie film production. In an interview with the Figaro newspaper Thursday, the Minister said that, while the discussions had advanced, he had noted the ”difficulty in reaching a formal accord” and had therefore decided to act to break the deadlock.

Traditionally, French television networks, particularly Canal Plus, are considered indispensable to the funding of a local pic. However, television managers have been reluctant to add further to the legal obligations they face.

Those obligations set broadcasting quotas requiring 60% European programming, prevent networks from airing theatrical films on Wednesdays and Saturdays in primetime, and insist that the terrestrial networks invest 3% of annual advertising revenue in French-speaking film co-productions. In comparison, they have to invest 15% of ad revenue in local indie television production.

The new legislation will initially cover the national terrestrial broadcasters, although Douste-Blazy has called on pay TV giant Canal Plus also to open negotiations with the production community.

Last year, French broadcasters including Canal Plus pumped 1.1 billion francs ($192 million) into production; 75% of that would mean that the indie sector could hope to get its hands on around $152 million.

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