Digital Single Market Debate Dominates Industry Talk at Tallinn

The industry's uncertain digital future has been the major talking point of the Tallinn fest's European Film Forum.

If you were only passingly familiar with the words “Digital Single Market” heading into Tallinn Black Nights, a firm education awaited at the festival’s two-day European Film Forum. A host of speeches and panel discussions weighed up the pros and cons of the European Commission’s planned strategy to bring borderless EU market rules to digital media — allowing consumers throughout the content equal access to online viewing content.

It’s a proposal that strikes fear in the hearts of many European filmmakers, concerned that unrestricted digital distribution will make it harder than it already is for them to promote and monetize their art. “If we disrupt the distribution part of the value chain, and risk completely upsetting the financing part of it, the creators cannot create,” protested Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of the Federation of European Film Directors, in the Forum’s most heated session. “Directors want their films to be seen, and they’re ready to be bold about access … The issue is to make them known, but how do you do that in a sea of new media content?”

Her worries were echoed by fellow panelist Benoit Ginisty, director of the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. He added that the DSM strategy could endanger the international co-production model currently so integral to contemporary European cinema — one which secures pre-sales for films in participating territories, a financial advantage that could be rendered moot in a single market. “Our fear is a situation where the European market is centred around a limited number of platforms,” he stated.

Streaming behemoth Netflix also came in for some flak from panelists, who cited its lack of transparency regarding viewing figures and limited investment in non-U.S. production as problems that could be exacerbated by a single market environment. At a further panel discussion, it was agreed that “imposing investment obligations” on major online streaming outlets would bring them healthily into the value chain. With or without the DSM, even the newest industry models face substantial change.

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