Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

European films and the Information Society: Informal Meeting of Ministers for Audiovisual, Europe Day

Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, Cannes, 16 May 2005 – 2005/05/16

Ms. Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, spoke at the informal meeting of European ministers in charge of audiovisual policy in Cannes on May 16, which primarily focused on the impact of the Information Society on European Films. Ms. Reding declared: « the opportunities for people to enjoy films online are set to increase tremendously over the next few years. The availability of digital content is opening fantastic perspectives for the development of both the information society and the European film industry. We must take this opportunity to contribute to exploiting new markets and increasing revenue for our film makers while expanding the choice available to the general public ». However, she explained that «Intellectual property rights represent the economic heart of the audiovisual industry as a creative activity (and) plays a vital role for fostering investment, growth, job creation and cultural diversity in the European Union ».

While online films present new opportunities to both the cinematography industry, with access to new international markets and niches, and Internet access providers, Ms. Reding still warned attendees that a viable trade model could not be built upon an illegal “underground” download and file sharing system: « Rights holders must receive an equitable share of the revenue », emphasized the commissioner. In the fight against this type of pirating, she applauded the “graduated” response now being implemented in certain Member states and promoted an exchange of best practices in the field. She also promoted education programs on the value and importance of intellectual property rights for the availability of content, stating that « There is an urgent need for a meaningful dialogue between the film industry and the service providers to ensure that online distribution takes place through legal supply. There may be a disastrous loss in revenue if the market is inundated with unauthorised file sharing of films, as has been observed with music ». She closed with a promise that the Committee would investigate the possibilities of designing funding mechanisms for online distribution, for example through MEDIA 2007, and encourage the digitization of new audiovisual works for online distribution.

In a previous declaration in the journal Libération, she stated that online films were “an additional means of cultural consumption, like TV and video were last century.” However, she asked “what policy should the EU adopt toward the additional Internet film market? What are the best practices in the field? How can we improve cooperation between creative industries and access providers? How can we make online films a tool to promote cultural diversity? Will new technologies enable European films to conquer new markets outside Europe? These are a few of the questions Europe Day 2005 at the Cannes Festival will attempt to answer,” she declared. She further noted that “films produced in the new European Member states are fighting for survival, even in their home markets, as blockbusters from the American majors roll them down” and pointed out that “the new information and telecommunications technologies provide an answer. An additional market is being born: that of the “online” film, through wideband services and websites offering films on demand.” She maintained that “the European audiovisual and telecommunications industries, which have similar and convergent activities, must have a place and be competitive in this new market (…). Their ability to find a clientele will depend largely on the answers to a series of questions—the availability of works for online sale, this new market’s contribution to creative works in the future, the prevention of “pirate” sites offering downloads, etc. Answering these questions is first and foremost the responsibility of the industries themselves. But I am convinced it is also helpful to discuss these matters at the European level.”

In an interview with Figaro économie, Ms. Reding emphasized that although she was in charge of a department that handles both content and new technologies, she could still “continually defend the principles of cultural diversity.” She believes “these principles are tributary of everything Europe does in terms of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity will remain the soul of Europe for the simple reason that diversity itself is a mosaic. Two components of the new constitution protect these principles. Firstly, decisions concerning audiovisual materials will continue to require a qualified majority vote—that’s the first guarantee. Then, at the international trade level, the constitution ensures that culture will never be a bargaining chip in trade agreements. It will remain non-negotiable.” [05-17]