BRUSSELS — European Union culture ministers want to ax the rule that requires a unanimous vote on cultural issues, in a sign that policies on TV, movies and music could be about to change.
Disappointingly for Hollywood, they reiterated their support for the “cultural exception” that limits foreign content providers’ access to Europe’s film and TV markets.
Under current rules, all 15 EU member states must agree before decisions can be made on cultural issues.
Ministers, meeting to discuss culture policy once the EU increases its ranks from 15 to 25 countries in May 2004, said this rule should be dropped for decisions that only affected the EU, but upheld in trade negotiations with countries from outside the bloc.
The ministers’ conclusions will be presented to the Convention on the Future of Europe, the body responsible for drafting the enlarged EU’s new constitution.
The convention will have a hard time pleasing everyone — already French president Jacques Chirac has written a strongly worded letter insisting no member state be overruled on the EU’s future agreements on external trade in cultural goods such as films and TV programs.
Directive may be revised
At the summit, Viviane Reding, head of the EU culture and education department, said she would decide in September whether to revise the Television Without Frontiers directive that regulates Europe’s TV industry.
She suggested she might favor a revision, claiming it could better protect children from pornography and violence on TV and in videogames.
Meanwhile Greek culture minister Evangelos Venizelos, who chaired the meeting, urged representatives of Europe’s film industry to form a federation that could develop more unified film production and distribution networks on the continent.
This was the only way that Europe could challenge the dominance of U.S. movies, he argued. “European cinema has not one problem, but 26: that of the EU and each of its 25 countries,” Venizelos said.