Vol. 5, no 17, Monday, June 6, 2005
Draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions : The process of elaboration continues!
IN THIS ISSUE :
The third session of the meeting of intergovernmental experts on the draft convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions kicked off on May 25 in Paris and wrapped up on June 3 with the adoption of 35 articles and the appendix of a draft convention on which widespread consensus had been reached. In their final resolution, the delegates of the 130 states who attended the 3rd session asked the UNESCO Director-General to present the draft convention to the General Conference and recommend that it adopt it at its 33rd session slated for October 3 to 21, 2005. We will discuss this significant event that brought together 530 participants in greater detail in the upcoming editions of this e-newsletter. [05-17]
Pope Benedict XVI addressed a message to UNESCO on the occasion of a colloquium organized by Monsignor Follo, the Vatican’s permanent observer to UNESCO. The colloquium entitled Culture, reason and freedom was held June 2 at UNESCO in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to UNESCO. In his message, in which he greeted UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura and all the UNESCO representatives, Pope Benedict XVI invited all those in attendance to “implement a true policy of culture, with a view to preserving cultural identities that are so often threatened by the balance of economic and political power, but also to promote the expression of humankind in every dimension of its being.” The Pope notably declared that “In a world at once multiple and divided and often subjected to the strong demands of the globalization of economic relations and, even more so, of information, it is absolutely necessary to mobilize the energies of intelligence to have the right of human beings to education and culture recognized everywhere, especially in the poorest countries.” [05-17]
Festival de Cannes – 11-22 mai 2005, Cannes, le 17 mai 2005 - 2005/05/17
For the third consecutive year, the Cannes Film Festival teamed up with the European Commission to present Europe Day. At the invitation of Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, eighteen European culture and audiovisual ministers, as well as film industry experts and telecommunication industry executives, met for a morning of discussions on the theme “European film and the information society,” specifically the potential of online film and the economic model for this new form of film distribution. By launching the debate on online film, a powerful film distribution channel and cultural diversity promotion tool, the European Union has provided further proof that it appreciates all European film, declared Ms. Reding, who also noted that “The Internet offers immense opportunities for niche films to serve the cause of cultural diversity, but we must solve the problem of piracy that is inherent to the Internet.”
At the outcome of the meeting, the European culture ministers adopted the Cannes Declaration on downloading films from the Internet, reiterating the need to raise public awareness as to the respect of copyrights. “It is urgently needed that the film industry meet with online providers in order to ensure films are distributed within a legal framework,” states the document. The declaration goes on to say that “there is a big danger of huge revenue losses if the pirating of films continues, as was true for the music industry.” In addition to the need for legal downloading mechanisms, the European culture ministers also consider it necessary to “facilitate the development of the film industry online... and consider the necessary funding to digitalize cinematographic works and thereby render our film heritage accessible.” [05-17]
Agence France Presse (AFP), Cannes, le 16 mai 2005 -2005/05/16
This AFP article reports that, at their meeting in Cannes during the 2005 Film Festival, the directors of Europe’s 25 public film agencies called for more transparent and coherent public funding of the film industry. The declaration addressing national governments and European institutions was signed at the joint initiative of Centre national français de la Cinématographie (CNC) and the UK Film Council.
In the declaration, the European national agency directors drew the attention of their governments to “the need to affirm the legitimacy of existing cultural policies, and reaffirm it with the European Commission.” They also pointed to the “urgent need to find, in cooperation with the European Commission, a long-term solution that guarantees (…) enhanced recognition of the industrial and cultural nature of film, and a greater coherence between policies (…) in order to ensure the long term strengthening and development of the film industry’s support systems.” They also noted “the need for greater transparency, coherence, and legal certainty of the rules set out by the European Commission with regard to public funding.” The current regulations came into effect in 2001, and expire in June 2007. [05-17]
Olivier Barlet, Africultures, le 27 mai 2005 – 2005/05/27
As UNESCO negotiates a Convention on Cultural Diversity “focused on international cooperation, to be adopted in October 2005, CNC organized a symposium on La diversité culturelle, dialogues entre les cinéastes du Sud in Cannes, in partnership with SACD, TV5, and Agence intergouvernementale de la Francophonie (AIF) and with the support of partners from Pavillon Cinémas du Sud and the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity. This symposium brought together representatives of coalitions for cultural diversity from Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Korea, and France to hear from filmmakers from a number of countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America concerning work toward cultural diversity and spur dialog on these countries’ specific needs and situations in terms of cultural diversity.
It also gave attendees the opportunity to “emphasize the immediacy of the danger threatening countries of the South, where cultural expression will be increasingly compromised by globalization if they fail to have ‘cultural exception’ included in the economic agreements in the works on freer trade in goods and services.” “At a time when an African country like Morocco only secured its sovereignty over national audiovisual materials at the very last minute in a bilateral trade agreement it recently signed with the United States and the U.S. has entered into bilateral economic negotiations with Tunisia, the Cannes round table demonstrated the enormity of the fight to control audiovisual materials—a fight that will continue to grow until the date set by UNESCO,” explained an observer.
Thus, according to Miguel Necoechea (Mexican Coalition for Cultural Diversity), Mexican cinematographic production has dropped by 72% due to the invasion of the market by U.S. products. From 2000 to 2004, only 102 films were produced, because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He cites Canada as an example, since it did not include culture in NAFTA. This was not the case for Mexico: “In 2004, 280 films were released in Mexican theaters: 166 were American, controlling 2,500 of the country’s 3,000 big screens and attracting 150 million viewers a year.” The result, he concluded, is “the closure of production houses, unemployment, and a drop in Mexican film exports. The relationship with the public has broken down; loyalty has dwindled and the American mindset dominates. Filmmakers are lobbying for an amendment to the free trade agreement, but the United States is placing enormous pressure on governments.” Necoechea believes that the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity should “provide for retroactive steps” to remedy this situation.
Nabil Ayouch (Moroccan Coalition for Cultural Diversity) says what happened in Mexico is also happening in Morocco: “It has been 2 to 3 years since the United States signed free trade agreements with some thirty countries. Negotiations were held to the distress of filmmakers and in secrecy (…) The U.S. is negotiating a “package deal” to throw the border to both countries open. It’s David and Goliath, an unmanageable matchup. The entertainment industry is one of the top revenue sources for the United States, some years even surpassing aeronautics. We look like protectionists, opponents to trade. It’s easy to caricature. Those who are fighting for diversity are not fighting for withdrawal, but openness. In Morocco, debate is growing. Now that the agreement has been signed and is being put into action, opinions are flying. We’re asking for a quota policy, but have been able to make it compulsory.”
On the other hand, according to Nemesio Juarez (Argentine Coalition for Cultural Diversity), the critical crisis of December 2001 may have practically destroyed Argentina, but a classic law to protect and fund the cinematography industry came out of the fight, along with a support and solidarity fund. However, Argentina controls only 25% of its film market share. “The rest is in the hands of the U.S. majors.”
For his part, Kim Hong-Joon (Korean Coalition for Cultural Diversity) asserts that Korea is a unique example, with its “screen quota” system requiring all big screens in Korea to show 40% Korean films. However, the United States asked Korea to abolish its quotas in 1999 as a precondition to its signing the U.S./Korea bilateral investment agreement allowing U.S. capital to circulate freely in Korea, “which opened eyes both in the industry and among the public.” It’s a constant fight, he says: “For the rebirth of Korean cinema, we need the UNESCO convention as a weapon.”
As for Chile, Bruno Bettati (Chilean Coalition for Cultural Diversity) points out that a free trade agreement was signed in 2002 with the United States: “professionals asked for an exception, but only obtained a reserve fund. This allows us to continue funding the cinematography industry, but not to set quotas or provide tax breaks.” Cheick Ngaïdo Bâ (Senegalese Coalition for Cultural Diversity) follows the same line of thought, declaring “in bilateral agreements, the United States has too much power. Agreements should be multilateral.” [05-17]
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]
Spanish, Brazilian and French Ministers of Culture, respectively Mrs. Carmen Calvo, Mr Gilberto Gil, and M. Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, invitate their colleagues for an international Meeting of the Ministers of Culture. This meeting will be held in Madrid, June the 11, and 12 2005 with an aim of reiterating « their engagement to support UNESCO in the intergovernmental process of approval of Convention on cultural diversity, at the time of the general Conference of the autumn 2005 ». This key event comes on the heels of the third and final session of the UNESCO meeting of intergovernmental experts that took place in Paris from May 25 to June 4. During ten days, this session joined together 530 experts come from 130 countries, 2 observers, 6 representatives of intergovernmental organizations and 19 of nongovernmental organizations in order to negotiate the preliminary draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. [05-17]
While UNESCO’s efforts to develop a preliminary convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions enters a decisive phase with the third meeting of intergovernmental experts being held until June 4, the ministers of culture from ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) member countries in Asia and Europe will meet in Paris on June 7 and 8 “to reiterate their determined commitment in support of the intercultural dialog between Europe and Asia, and the promotion of cultural diversity.” This second ASEM meeting is being held under the theme Cultural Diversity: Opportunities and Challenges – ASEM’s Long Term Action Plan, and is divided into four theme workshops to be co-facilitated by representatives of the eight sponsor countries: Promoting Cultural and Cooperative Exchanges (Singapore-Poland), Promoting Cultural and Creative Industries (Malaysia-France), Promoting Sustainable and Responsible Cultural Tourism (Indonesia-Germany), and Promoting Culture as a Driving Force for Development (China-Spain). The UNESCO Director-General, as well as a senior representative of the European Union will take part in the sessions. ASEM represents 25 member states from the European Union, The European Commission, the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan. [05-17]
The Jean Monnet Chair for Economic Integration at Université de Montréal in Québec, Canada, is organizing a round table on the UNESCO Draft convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. The event comes in the wake of the third session of the UNESCO meeting of intergovernmental experts that continued work on a draft convention on cultural diversity. The various experts invited to the round table will discuss the following questions: What do we mean by “diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions?” Beyond its moral authority, what role should the convention play in the international legal order, specifically in relation to WTO agreements? What should be the role of public service institutions and media in safeguarding this diversity? What contribution is the European Constitution making to this issue? Where do minorities and developing countries stand in this debate? What are Québec’s and Canada’s policies with regard to cultural specificity? [05-17]