Euro helmers’ SOS

Directors lobby EU to double media coin

BRUSSELS — FERA, the influential European Film Directors Federation, has called on EU culture commissioner Viviane Reding to pursue a bold and ambitious agenda for ensuring the development of the 15-member org’s struggling audiovisual industry.

Joao Correa, FERA secretary-general, wrote to Reding this week, calling for a doubling of the budget for Media III, the next European Union support program for the audiovisual industry. The program, which expires in 2000, has enjoyed funding to the tune of $405 million. Correa said distribution and marketing in particular required much higher levels of coin.

In addition, FERA wants the EU’s massive $230 billion “structural funds” and other coin to be made available to the film industry.

The organization is also demanding a specific EU cinema directive, under which the legitimacy of national and regional aid for the film industry would be recognized and incentives for cross-border distribution introduced.

FERA will put forward its proposals to the European Parliament and Commission later in November.

FERA contends that without the Media I and Media II programs and the EU’s quota system, the audiovisual industry in Europe would have collapsed completely in the 1990s. FERA wants the EU to adopt “a powerful overall audiovisual policy” that will foster “a European audiovisual industry able to compete with the U.S. industry in the EU and in third-country markets.”

FERA has launched its initiative at a highly strategic time. World Trade Organization liberalization talks will be held in Seattle from Nov. 30-Dec. 3. At the end of the last round of talks, in 1994, the EU won hard-fought exemption from free trade for its audiovisual industries, allowing it to impose its quota system.