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Media Plus unveiled

EU pledges more cash to distrib'n, fests

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s culture commissioner, Vivane Reding, has responded to the growing film industry clamor for a more powerful audiovisual policy by outlining plans for a new funding scheme for European cinema.

Speaking to industry representatives and varied politicos at the end of EU Cinema Day in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Reding revealed more details of the replacement for Media II, the EU’s program of support for the film business.

Aiming to increase budget

Media Plus, as the successor will be designated, will channel funds into improving the distribution of European films, both within Europe and across the world. Reding declared that she aims to increase the budget for the entertainment industry and called on the newly elected Parliament to give her its support.

The culture supremo pointed to signs of renewal in the industry, with 814 million tickets sold in Europe in 1998, close to 1980 levels, which marked the previous high. Reding pointed out that the number of movies produced and distributed in Europe is also on the increase, and that video sales are continuing to rise in spite of the increasing number of TV channels.

However, Reding then pointed out that 75% of the ticket sales were accounted for by U.S. pics, 18% by domestic films and only 6% by films from a different European territory.

Although she declared herself an optimist, she said she recognized that the industry was in a parlous state and was dependent upon “the often brutal sanction of the public.”

Major challenges

The allocation of Media Plus funding will be determined by the two major challenges that Reding sees facing Europe’s film business –globalization and the digital revolution.

It is becoming clear that Reding is not prepared to fight to the death in defense of the EU’s controversial import quotas on movies and TV shows.

Reding dismissed apocalyptic fears of the impact of globalization on Europe’s culture. She condemned protectionism and called for a more open European culture.

The “top priority” of Media Plus will be to support the better distribution of European films in other European territories. Reding also wants to award a greater slice of the funding cake to promotion, especially to film festivals and trade fairs.

Media Plus will also focus on funding pilot projects aimed at developing new channels for distribution, such as the Internet.

Reding added that she aims to set up a publicly funded foundation charged with caring for Europe’s massive heritage of old movies.

The culture chief will formally unveil Media Plus in December. The birth of the new program looks likely to be overshadowed by the start of the World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, in which the EU’s audiovisual quotas will come in for sustained attack.

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