Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

Pourquoi faut-il sauvegarder l'exception culturelle ?

Vanessa Marson, Université du Havre, Faculté des Affaires internationales, le 12 janvier 2005 – 2005/01/12

« Is it possible to cancel, in the name of the slightest competitive or commercial equality, an exception that enables a country to cultivate its talents? »  Mrs. Vanessa Marson, claims, « The end of the Doha Round, which is planned for 2006, runs the risk of replacing the cultural exception status with cultural specificity ».  In order to understand that the liberalization of audiovisual services is not desirable, one needs to be aware of the positive effects of the cultural exception on the European film industry.  She states, « This status, which provides semi-exclusive protection to audiovisual services, is the engine of economic growth for European film.  It allows all national and EU financial aid policies in the audiovisual sector to be maintained and developed.  Thanks to this support, in ten years, the number of feature films produced in the European Union rose from 26% to 73% in France, while the percentage of American films dropped by 5%.  The American film industry now finances 75% of European audiovisual production because Europe is the sole beneficiary of taxes on foreign videos and films.  Without this significant aid to French and European cinema, Europe’s performance in the film industry would be dreadful!  The cultural exception therefore seems to be a viable alternative to the Hollywood industry.  The long-term consequences of its disappearance would be disastrous ».

She also maintains that the principle of national treatment, among those on which international trade agreements are based, would have repercussions on European production.  Economically reduced, the European film industry would be more vulnerable to American imports, which the cultural exception was able to curb. She raises the two main opposing theories on this subject.  For those defending the general opening of markets, namely the United States, she stresses, the liberalization of audiovisual services complies with the commercial status granted to the services in question in the United States.  However, from the European viewpoint, audiovisual services, due to their tie to culture, cannot be considered mere merchandise. Government support for the film creation is therefore necessary to enable European productions to express their diversity, by encouraging all those who participate in finalizing the work. According to this position, audiovisual works are born « from the human imagination and experience ».  They are « works of the mind » a perspective which, for Mrs. Marson, is not easily acknowledged in a world where perpetuating profits is given the priority. [05-03]