Euro indie producers ailing despite regs

Report shows new rules may need to change

European broadcasting rules intended to help create a single production market and support independent producers are having little impact, according to a study for the European Commission.

A preliminary report, released Wednesday, concludes that changes may be required to achieve these goals.

Europe’s audiovisual media services directive requires broadcasters to schedule at least 50% European content on free-to-air and pay TV channels, with at least 10% from independent producers. They are encouraged to do the same with on-demand services, but without binding thresholds.

The study found the targets are easily met but not because of the law, adding, “Preferences for national content seem to be deep-rooted culturally and economically rather than a consequence of the regulation.”

The dominance of national product — rather than programs with international appeal or co-productions — means the single European audiovisual market is not developing as planned.

There are exceptions. The well-travelled detective series “Wallender,” for example, was produced by Swedish independent Yellow Bird with partners at home, in Germany and in France. Yellow Bird also put out an English-language version with the BBC and Blighty’s Left Bank Pictures.

Denmark’s “The Killing,” a collaboration between Scandinavian pubcasters, has also exported well.

But these are “isolated examples and not enough to sustain producers,” the report said.

“The profitability of independent producers has slipped badly, and current business models for the production of content are changing. Risks are moving down the production chain, but the European market lacks the scale to support them,” the report said.

It also suggests the law’s cultural goals are not being met.

“As measured by the proportion of nondomestic works, the European audiovisual culture remains as fragmented as ever.”

The shift to on-demand and other ways of viewing content will make the situation more difficult in the future, the report concluded.It moots the possibility of introducing thresholds for European content and independent works to on-demand services. Regulation could also be extended to include services with no editorial responsibility, such as search portals or social platforms.

Consideration could also go to measures directing coin to the production, promotion and circulation of European works.