Hundreds of top filmmakers, industry representatives and policy makers are gathering in Brussels to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead for Europe’s audiovisual sector. They will discuss the future of the EU’s MEDIA programme which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
When was the MEDIA programme launched and what is the idea behind it?
The MEDIA Programme (abbreviation from French: Mesures pour l’encouragement et le développement de l’industrie audiovisuelle) was launched in 1991 to encourage collaboration between film and television professionals across Europe and strengthen Europe’s film audiovisual industry. Its aim is to help the EU film and audiovisual industry grow and capture new audiences in a changing broadcasting landscape and in the face of intense international competition. This year 2016 the EU’s MEDIA programme celebrates its 25th anniversary as part of the EU’s wider Creative Europe programme. The original budget back in 1991 was 310 million ECU (equivalent to €310 million) for seven years. Today more than half of the €1.50 billion Creative Europe programme budget (2014-2020) is dedicated to its MEDIA sub-programme (€107 million in 2017).
How does the MEDIA programme support the audiovisual industry?
The EU invests along the whole value chain of the film industry. At an early stage, MEDIA supports the development process, when authors are developing concepts and writing scripts. The MEDIA programme also encourages co-productions: co-produced films have 2-3 times higher circulation potential as they are created and designed to appeal to several audiences. Some schemes in MEDIA are highly selective and having received the MEDIA stamp of approval often helps to raise the profile of audiovisual works, along with the financial support.
The MEDIA programme has also helped train more than 20,000 producers, directors, and screenwriters and enabled them to adapt to new challenges and technologies.
Another area that the MEDIA programme covers is the access to content. This includes tools for distribution, support to sales agents/distributors and support to cinemas. Most of MEDIA programme funding (44%) is allocated to non-national distribution and online distribution. MEDIA helps distributors to screen foreign films and provide funding for marketing, printing and advertising, subtitling and dubbing, etc. One of the most important features of MEDIA is the support to the creation, development and sustainability of the Europa Cinemas network which includes 962 cinemas across Europe that are committed to screening European works. For every €1 invested in the Europa Cinemas network, an estimated €13 is generated through additional audience for the audiovisual sector.
Finally, the EU supports audience development to stimulate interest in European audiovisual works, in particular through promotion, film education and festivals.
This work is supported nationally by a network of Creative Europe Desks throughout the Member States and other countries which participate in the MEDIA programme, with 79 offices to support potential applicants to MEDIA and promote the programme locally.
What are the next steps or stages of the discussion concerning the future of the MEDIA programme?
The discussions with stakeholders within the framework of the European Film Forum will help define the future vision and strategic direction of the MEDIA programme beyond 2020. The Commission is also cooperating closely with the Member States, including with the film funds on this issue. The Commission has also launched an external independent mid-term evaluation of the MEDIA programme together with some specific studies on animation, training and distribution.
By December 2017 the Commission must present a mid-term evaluation of Creative Europe to the European Parliament and the Council and is due to present a proposal for the successor programme, under the next Multi-annual Financial Framework, by the end of 2018.
Which films has the MEDIA programme supported since 1991?
MEDIA has helped promising films to scale-up and achieve international recognition. From the early films of Lars Von Tries like Europa or Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies in the 90s’ to more recent works such as Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, Slumdog Millionaire, the King’s Speech, Goodbye Lenin and The Artist, MEDIA-funded films have received critical acclaim at festivals and award ceremonies from the Festival de Cannes to the Academy Awards (Oscars).
Since 1991, 41 MEDIA-supported films have been awarded the Palme d’Or, the Grand Prix or the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. This year in Cannes, 10 out of 21 films in the official competition alone were supported by MEDIA including this year’s Palme d’Or Winner I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach. MEDIA-supported films have also been recognised beyond Europe. The last four Best Foreign Language Film Oscars were awarded to European films supported by MEDIA: Amour, La Grande Bellezza, Ida, Son of Saul. In 2016, 11 MEDIA-supported films received 18 Oscar nominations. These films are: Son of Saul – which also won the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the Golden Globes Awards, Carol, Youth, Brooklyn, 45 Years, Mustang, Krigen, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, The Look of Silence, Room, Amy and Shaun the Sheep – The Movie.
What is MEDIA doing to ensure wider access to content across the EU?
Digital technologies have transformed the ways creative content is produced, distributed and accessed. In December 2015, the Commission proposed new rules on the cross-border portability of online content as part of the Digital Single Market strategy. The aim is to make sure that Europeans who buy or subscribe to films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books and games at home are able to access them when they travel in other EU countries. In September 2016, the Commission presented ambitious proposals for the modernisation of the EU copyright framework, with the aim to bring EU rules in line with technological developments and with the rapidly-changing behaviour of viewers online, widen access to content across the EU and create a fairer deal for all online players.MEDIA will contribute to this strategy by:
– Further promoting tools to improve access to EU works online, including the creation of ready-tooffer catalogues of European films in order to give Video-on-Demand (VoD) services a well curated catalogue of films from different producers, the development of licensing hubs to facilitate the licensing of works in countries where they have not been released in cinemas or where there is no national distributor; and a larger use of standard identifiers of works.The use of common identifiers will help find rights holders more easily and facilitate licensing; –
– Promoting wider access to EU works, and address linguistic barriers through more efficient funding subtitling and dubbing (including an online repository); investing in a European aggregator so that people can find more easily a legal offering of films online; promoting the use of data and automated tools for content recommendation, in view of developing and enlarging audiences for European works; working with film industry to promote the discoverability of European films and exploring joint promotion strategies for European coproductions; and funding in 2017 catalogues of European films for educational purposes to present the diversity and quality of European films to young audiences.
– Exploring new business models, starting with the EU animation sector by discussing how animation films and television animation can travel even better and discussing how the sector can scale up.
Why are subtitling and dubbing important? How is MEDIA supporting them?
Subtitling and dubbing are essential for the circulation of audiovisual works within Europe and to facilitate their presence on global VoD services but also to promote Europe’s linguistic and cultural diversity. In 2014, MEDIA spent around €4 million on subtitling and dubbing, for supporting the cross border distribution of European films. 500 films were able to reach their audiences thanks to this instrument. In addition to the support coming from MEDIA, the Commission has also launched, with the support of the European Parliament, two new projects, amounting to €4.5 million, for innovative solutions for subtitling including crowdsourcing and new subtitled versions for TV programmes.
Why are ready-to-offer catalogues in VoD services a priority for MEDIA funding? In an online environment, curation and making full use of an existing catalogue is extremely important especially when compared with the development and screening of new productions. It is an opportunity to reach to further audiences, hence making the most out of the money invested. As VoD services do not deal with small producers on an individual basis, the Commission provides funding for the aggregation of European works by different producers into curated catalogues of films ready to be offered to VoD services. This also makes life easier for VoD services and ensures that they have works that are ready to be offered to their subscribers. The budget of this action has been increased from €1.5 million in 2016 to around €2 million in 2017 MEMO/16/3881
Why does MEDIA support the creation of licensing hubs?
MEDIA supports the testing of new distribution modes and promotion of legal offers on-line to incentivise the development of new business models. Typically European works are produced by small production companies and are distributed territory by territory. People do not have any possibility of accessing these works in a legal way in territories for which no agreements have been signed with local distributors. For this reason, MEDIA promotes the development of licensing hubs i.e. online tools that allow the digital distribution of European films also in countries where they have not been released theatrically or where there is no national distributor. The budget to support new distribution modes and promotion of legal offers online has been increased from €1.9 in 2016 to roughly €3.5 million in 2017.
Why does the Commission foresee regarding the animation sector? We strongly believe that there is an opportunity for the sector to scale up. The study Mapping the Animation Industry in Europe, commissioned by the European Commission to the European Audiovisual Observatory, shows that animation is the category of audiovisual works with the largest European circulation. The study finds that while animation films represent 14.7% of overall admissions to European works, European animation only holds 20% of the animation market in Europe. The 44 US films on release indeed accounted for most of the box office for animation that year, whereas Europe leads in terms of the number of productions (107 out of 188 animation films released).
The technological developments and changes in the audiovisual sector bring both opportunities and challenges. The Commission will discuss the needs of the sector with the industry with the aim to publish an Animation Action Plan by mid-2017. The Action Plan would cover short-term action as well possible initiatives under the successor programme (2021-2027).
What is the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility?
MEDIA supports access to finance for audiovisual companies through the Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility launched in June 2016. Between 2016 and 2020, the Creative Europe programme will mobilise €121 million for this new guarantee facility. It will act as insurance to financial intermediaries which offer financing for cultural and creative SMEs. The Cultural and Creative Sectors Guarantee Facility will have the potential to leverage €600 million in loans and other financial products for SMEs in the cultural and creative sectors. The guarantee scheme is managed by the European Investment Fund, on behalf of the Commission (press release)
Source: European Commission