EU adds 9 nations to film finance fund

Move means more countries to compete for same pool of funding

BRUSSELS — The European Union will extend its $340 million Media Plus film finance program to nine Eastern European countries waiting to join the EU.

Beginning next year, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech and Slovak Republics will be eligible for subsidies to support training, distribution, development and marketing of films.

Local filmmakers welcomed the news even though it means more countries will compete for the same pool of funding. “The scheme will be more competitive,” Christophe Forax, spokesman for EU Culture Commissioner Viviane Reding admitted.

Many low-budget pics would not see the light of day without the subsidies.

Meeting in Belgium over the weekend, EU culture ministers reaffirmed their belief that Europe’s audiovisual industry needs protection from market forces, particularly the threat posed by Hollywood.

Films and TV programs will continue to be exempt from free trade rules. This “cultural specificity,” a principle much favored by the French, guides audiovisual policy in the 15-member bloc.

Commissioner Reding said the EU will continue its stance on cultural specificity at World Trade Organization negotiations later this year to protect Europe’s cultural diversity.

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