"Creative Europe" in the Limelight at the European Day organized at the Rome Festival
by Francesca Mesiano
The traditional European Day, organized by the MEDIA Desk Italy took place on Thursday 15 November at the Auditorium in Via Veneto.
The aim of the conference, entitled "From the MEDIA Programme to Creative Europe: evolution or revolution?" was to take stock of "Creative Europe", the new multiannual Programme of support to the culture and creative industries in Europe.
The main figures underlying the discussion were presented in the introduction by Giuseppe Massaro, Director of the MEDIA Desk Italy.
"Creative Europe", which will bring together the present MEDIA, Culture and MEDIA Mundus Programmes, has a proposed budget of 1.8 billion euros for the 2014-2020 period (37% more than present spending). Of this, over 900 million euros will be destined for support to the cinema and audiovisual sector (an area covered by the present MEDIA Programme) and almost 500 million euros for the cultural sector.
The Commission also intends allocating over 210 million euros for a new trans-sectoral tool of financial guarantee, intended to allow small players to access bank loans, and around 60 million euros in support of political cooperation and innovative strategies for audience building as well as new business models.
The talk by MEP Silvia Costa, Rapporteur of "Creative Europe"
MEP Silvia Costa, rapporteur on "Creative Europe", gave details of the Programme's content - summing up the main points of her proposed amendment, presented to the Parliament on 8 October last - now that the text of the measure is at an advanced stage of discussion and pointing out the need to begin the "trilogue" phase involving the Parliament, the Commission and the Council promptly, so that the scheme can become operational right from the start of 2014.
The MEP went on to emphasize how, at the same time, discussions on financing are also going on, during which a 10% reduction of the budget for culture has been contemplated, which would "involve very serious consequences".
In fact, in the European Commission's proposal the aspect that had been most highly appreciated was the "counter-trend" decision to increase the funds for education and culture by 37%, compared to the previous seven-year period, acknowledging the role of these two sectors as the "engine" driving other aspects of European economy and life.
Equally positive, according to Silvia Costa, was the choice of creating a programme for the entire cultural and creative sector, to include the audiovisual as well, considering the challenges shared by all its constituent parts: "fragmentation, globalization and thus competition, digitalization, the difficulty of accessing credit - especially for small and medium-sized businesses - and the lack of comparative data."
Nonetheless, the specific characteristics of each sector, the cultural, the creative and the audiovisual, more market-oriented and thus in need of an industrial policy, must on no account be lost sight of.
The proposed amendment thus hinges on establishing a balance between integration and specific characteristics, creating a shared platform, in other words the framework programme "Creative Europe" (amend. 27 and 28), within which the two Culture and MEDIA Programmes maintain their independence, recognizing the particular features and priorities of their respective sectors.
This sub-division corresponds in the proposal to a well-defined division of resources: at least 55% to the MEDIA Programme, at least 30% to the Culture Programme and a maximum of 15% to the trans-sectoral strand.
This necessity to define and distinguish more clearly the various strands will, in any case, have to be balanced by the flexibility needed to accompany the cultural and creative sector in a phase of great transformation, giving the Parliament a more decisive role in orientating and evaluating the annual programmes.
The newest aspect compared to the past is the so-called "trans-sectoral strand", whose objective will be to support transversal models and transnational projects, for which a new financial tool is foreseen to integrate contributions: a European guarantee fund - entrusted to the European Investment Fund - which will allow small and medium-sized businesses and projects for cultural, creative and audiovisual projects to access credit.
The challenge is to demonstrate that cultural enterprises, too, not only qualify for banking credit but can also generate profits.
In the area of transnational cohesion policies, the proposal presented to the Parliament includes support for the exchange of experiences and knowledge regarding new models of governance, which include new relationships between public/private, as well as interdisciplinary and multi-media projects, promoting communication between different players in the cultural and creative fields, thanks mainly to digital networks.
From the point of view of training, more importance is given to the cultural, audiovisual, film and digital education systems, with support for the professional training of those involved, in a European dimension.
As regards the MEDIA Programme, efforts will be made to maintain its priorities, in consideration of the good results obtained over the past twenty years, bearing in mind the need to identify new business models, increasing the circulation of European films and making the most of new forms of creative partnership linked to digital technologies.
In this context comes support for the sub-titling and dubbing of audiovisual works and the use of the new technologies, such as digital distribution by satellite.
Silvia Costa then mentioned the difficulties of the exhibition sector, emphasizing the problem of the digitalization of cinemas, with particular regard to those located in small places and to the quality and art-house sectors. "We must complete the process within a year to avoid closure by around 15% of Italian and European cinemas."
As regards Italy, the MEP urged for action by the Regions to be boosted and coordinated, pointing out that "Creative Europe" alone was not sufficient to complete the process, but that all the tools made available by the European Union, including the Structural Funds, should be made use of.
MEP Costa concluded her talk by addressing the Director General for the Cinema, Nicola Borrelli, directly, with an appeal to the Italian Government: interest must be created in European calls for offers and - as regards the production sector - the circulation of works in Europe must be promoted, by placing independent producers in a position to take part in the MEDIA Programme for the spread and circulation of TV co-productions, thanks also to the approval of the inter-ministerial decree - already prepared - on the regulation of authors' rights.
"Creative Europe": the Italian point of view
Briefly, Italy will have to get ready for the new EU plan, bearing in mind the new governance coordinating the sectors of culture and the audiovisual, at present scattered between different ministries.
The invitation was taken up by Director General Borrelli, who opened his talk by emphasizing that the fragmentation of competences in Italy's cultural sector is an anomaly in Europe and has been a cause of difficulty.
In this respect the Silvia Costa's commitment has been essential; in elaborating the text of "Creative Europe", she has sought an exchange of opinions with all the actors in the cultural and audiovisual sector in Italy.
Borrelli went on to stress that, in any case, the trend in relationships with the European Union has changed for the better and is proceeding along the lines of increasing dialogue, thanks also to the use that is made of portals for consultancy and existing information, such as the MEDIA Desk Italy and Antenna MEDIA Turin.
Referring again to Silvia Costa's talk, Borrelli then confirmed the commitment to achieve a discussion forum with the Regions so that better use can be made of European funding (to which, at the MEP's suggestion, the problem of digitalization will be added), hoping for intervention by the Ministry for Territorial Cohesion in this regard.
At the European Day, an overview of the most topical issues in the audiovisaul sector
The morning session of the conference continued with a brief overview of the Cultural Programme by Leila Nista, and with more details of the new financing tool, still being elaborated, constituted by the guarantee fund with the European Investment Fund.
Heloise Fontanel then presented the results of a study carried out by the MEDIA Consulting Group in the December 2011 - April 2012 period, on the new business models emerging on the European market with the transition to digital technology in the audiovisual sector.
In the field of new initiatives, Terenzio Cugio (Cineama) presented a case study: the joint project with "La Septième Salle" regarding cinematographic distribution on demand, whose main objective is to facilitate the distribution of quality films in cinemas located a long way from the main town centres, concentrating on the use of the web and social media for the creation of new models of production, promotion and distribution.
European cinemas and the conversion from 35 mm to digital
The afternoon opened with a talk by Elisabetta Brunella, Secretary General of MEDIA Salles, on the situation of digitalization in Europe's cinemas on the eve of the switch-off for 35 mm.
At 30 June 2012, Europe counted 21 789 digital screens, with a 17.4% increase compared to the beginning of the year, when they numbered 18 566. In Europe as a whole, the digital penetration rate reached 60.5% but this growth occurred at different rates on different markets.
Along with countries that had already achieved 100% digitalization in 2011 (Norway and Luxembourg), there are still several where the new technology regards less than a quarter of their screens, such as Turkey, Slovenia, Greece and Serbia.
Even when examining the top six countries, differences are to be seen: whilst the United Kingdom (86%) and France (80%) record penetration rates well above the European average, Germany has digitalized only 54% of her screens, whilst Spain (43%) and Italy (47%) are below the 50% mark.
Lastly, Joëlle Levie and Ilann Girard presented the first results from OLFFI (Online Film Financing), a portal devoted to spreading information on all the financing for production available in Europe and beyond.
An excerpt from this article was published in the "Giornale dello Spettacolo" n° 10, November 2012.