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Europe Urged to Form a Digital Single Market

At its meeting in Brussels on 25 November, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council adopted conclusions on European audiovisual policy in the digital era. Huw Jones reports.

Creating a ‘digital single market’ should be among the top priorities of the new European Commission, a meeting of EU Culture Ministers in Brussels concluded yesterday (Nov 25, 2014).

The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council, chaired by Italy’s┬áDario Franceschini, identified the audiovisual industry as ‘a key area for the economic, cultural and social agenda of the EU’, emphasizing its importance in terms of jobs, economic growth, and cultural and linguistic diversity.

EYCS press conference 3It claimed a digital single market would allow citizens to ‘access audiovisual content on their electronic devices wherever they are in Europe and regardless of borders’, potentially ending the situation where VOD users are unable to access films and TV shows from other member states due to copyright restrictions.

It called on EU’s Creative Europe Programme to encourage practices which make the licensing for multi-territory on-line audiovisual media easier, and urged member states to put more funding into innovative and experimental distribution strategies such as day-and-date releasing.

Earlier this year, a report for the European Commission into day-and-date releasing found that simultaneous VOD distribution can boost the potential audience of certain films by 20% on average. However, experiments into day-and-date releasing have been attacked by exhibitors, who worry about lost earnings from theatre revenue.

The Council also weighed into the on-going debate on European film financing by urging EU member states to re-balance public funding towards development, distribution and promotion. This follows criticisms raised by Jacques Delors Institute earlier this week that, ‘the imbalance between support for production and support for distribution seems to be a hindrance to the easy circulation and optimum success of some [European] film productions’.

In the light of rapid technological and market changes resulting from the digital shift, the Council called for an urgent review of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Service (AVMS) Directive and the modernisation of the EU copyright framework. It also suggested that the Erasmus, Horizon 2020 and COSME programmes should be used to finance more education, training and research on the audiovisual sector.

Meanwhile, industry players were encouraged to cooperate more closely with the European Audiovisual Observatory, in order to improve the collection and analysis of statistical data on the audiovisual sector.

Media literary and film heritage

Amongst the other recommendations agreed by the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council were calls to asses the media literacy levels of EU citizens. Members states were urged to promote good practices and research on the inclusion of media literacy in formal education and training, while the use of film heritage as a tool for promoting European cultures and values outside Europe was also recommended.

The Council’s full recommendations will form part of its Work Plan for Culture (2015-18), a strategic document setting out the priorities for European co-operation in cultural policy-making for the next four years. These priorities will subsequently be implemented by member states in co-operation with the European Commission.

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