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Audiovisual creation, a question of European ambition

TV production

While US video on demand (SVOD) platforms are increasing their profits tenfold, boosted by the effects of the pandemic, European cultural sectors, including audiovisual production, are experiencing a terrifying crisis. Productions are in slow motion, and cinemas are deserted for an indefinite period of time. In this context, we must act, not only to fight against the collapse of the sector, but to make it indispensable in a new world order for cinema and fiction.

Our weapon for audiovisual creation exists, it is a text voted in the European Parliament in 2019, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This text, which had to be transposed by the Member States before the end of September 2020, is also subject to the effects of the Covid. In France, it must be adopted in the form of an ordonnance (a statutory instrument issued by the Council of Ministers in an area of law normally reserved for primary legislation enacted by the French Parliament), for effective application at the very beginning of 2021.

This text provides for the presence of a minimum of 30% of European productions in the catalogue of platforms, and above all the possibility for Member States to require that SVOD broadcasting on their territory invest in local productions. The first figures put forward are of the order of 25% of the broadcaster's turnover in France, a substantial but not yet acquired percentage.

It's a windfall, but you still have to be able to provide it. And for that, it is necessary to gather and finance as quickly as possible all the active forces that constitute the authors, scriptwriters, directors, producers, and to relaunch the production in order to capture the funds that can be mobilized.

An additional challenge: British production is currently included in the quotas. What would happen if Brexit did not reach an agreement? British productions are in the majority in European productions and if the volume and quality of its works are proven, the door cannot be left open to the British without rules, even though they co-produce mainly with the United States.

For Europe, this is a reason to urgently rearm its creative film and fiction industry. We are the continent that invented cinema, we have a heritage of unique studios and natural settings, the most prestigious film festivals. We also have major film schools all over Europe, and therefore recognised professionals.

It's all there, but we lack vision and coordination at the European level. Admittedly, this is a matter of national competence, but are the EU-27 really aware of their power in this area? To date, the ambitious European recovery plan does not mention culture. MEPs have taken note of this and voted massively in favour of a resolution for the recovery of culture, which calls for a budget to be enshrined in national plans, the transposition of texts protecting authors' rights and support for creation.

European Parliament resolutions remain recommendations and it will be necessary to ensure that the Commission and the Member States follow up on them. To date, Germany, Italy and France have launched recovery plans for culture and France has been particularly notable for devoting 2% of its national plan to this.

But while money means a lot, it is not everything. The question of the project across the EU-27 remains. However, there is no shortage of areas of work: a massive programme of co-productions that could boost the catalogue of European works and re-introduce them to cinemas; investment in artistic, technical and especially digital skills on a continental level; social harmonisation in this sector where too much precariousness is detrimental to the assertion of a sector. These are the first approaches, which must be seriously considered. Our cultural influence is at stake, but also the assertion of our interests in the face of the digital giants.