New EU honcho bullish on quotas

Reding to put pix, TV shows through 'rigorous' system

BRUSSELS — The European Union should continue to apply protectionist measures toward cultural products, according to incoming culture commissioner Viviane Reding.

Although she did not go into specifics, Reding told the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media & Sport that she wants “rigorous” application of the system of quotas imposed on non-EU films and TV programs under the EU’s Television Without Frontiers directive.

Her plans were announced in response to a Parliamentary questionnaire sent to all commissioners in order to test their suitability for the job, in advance of a Parliamentary vote on whether to endorse the Commissioners due to take place later this month.

According to figures from EU information service Observatoire Europeen de l’Audiovisuel, the European movie industry currently lags behind its U.S. counterpart to the tune of $6 billion. Belgian Member of the European Parliament Luckas Vander Taelen asked the new commissioner how the EU should tackle the problem, taking into account the demands of the free market and the general public while maintaining European values. She responded by discussing the enormous importance of TV to Europeans.

Reding intends to play her part in ensuring job creation within the movie industry through implementation of a range of programs. Notable among them is Media III, which will follow Media II (the EU’s current audiovisual funding umbrella) at the start of 2001 and which will also focus on training and the development of production projects. She has defended the public TV biz, claiming it is complementary to the private channels with which it co-exists.

Pubcasters in Brussels believe it is too early to condemn Reding’s performance.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is supporting Reding’s line on quotas. “We agree with Reding entirely,” said Jacques Birquemont, EBU delegate to the European Institutions. “We must protect European audiovisual services.”

Reding was a journalist before becoming a Member of Parliament for Luxembourg’s Christian Democrat party. She served as an MEP from 1989 until her appointment and may claim to have cultural experience from her stint as president of Luxembourg’s Cultural Affairs Committee from 1992 to 1999.