In a crucial appointment for Spain’s cash-crunched film industry, producer Gustavo Ferrada has been tapped director of pubcaster TVE’s newly created Film Area.

Ferrada will have a large budget at his disposal.

Like all Spanish broadcasters which program movies, TVE is obliged to allocate the equivalent of 5% of annual sales to acquire Spanish or European films, TV movies, shorts, toon series pilots or two-part minis.

TVE director Javier Pons has estimated investment for 2007 at about E40 million ($56 million).

Ferrada’s appointment, following the announcement of the Film Area on Oct. 10, will help dispel doubts about TVE’s long-term commitment to film funding.

As the market softens for art films in Spain, TVE is the first nationwide TV port-of-call for artier producers seeking funding. TVE previously focused its film efforts on acquiring movies at screenplay stage.

Under Ferrada, the Film Area looks set to intervene upstream on some projects in film development as well as co-production, sales and, crucially, promotion to the home audience via TVE channels.

That policy will confirm TVE’s Film Area as a key film producer and financier in Spain, putting up sums of money that in select cases will go way beyond the $280,000-$1.4 million pad for pic acquisitions.

Ferrada brings extensive private sector contacts, a strong track record and wide-ranging tastes.

A former producer at top Spanish production house Sogecine, Ferrada produced films ranging from Isabel Coixet’s arthouse pic “To Those Who Love” to Alex de la Iglesia’s black comedy “Ferpect Crime” and Antonio Banderas’ sophomore directorial effort, the coming-of-age drama “Summer Rain.”