EU lawmakers to tackle media concentration, funding

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The EU should pay more attention to the content placed in the media and take into account concentration issues and financial support for filmmakers, argues French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada. The chair of the European Parliament's newly-established media intergroup spoke to EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

"For a long time, Europe has seen the media strictly in competition terms: balances, imbalances, concentration," said Cavada, a former journalist and director of several French radio and TV stations.

"A first error to avoid from an industrial point of view is to focus all our attention on the channels – on free access or widening – without worrying about what will be placed inside those channels," Cavada said, citing European film production as an example.

"The Internet is only a channel," he said, explaining that in the digital revolution, radio, television and newspapers are all moving online, posing specific challenges for intellectual property protection and the remuneration of authors.

"If there is no remuneration, there are no authors," Cavada said. "Instead, [media] would become distributors of universal global products, hence Anglo-American. We cannot content ourselves with this to nourish European brains."

The Parliament's cross-party intergroup will hold a first meeting with media professionals on 11 February to discuss issues the industry would like to see addressed during the legislature. "According to the discussion, a work plan will be drafted," Cavada told the group's members in an e-mail.

According to Cavada, Europe's focus on competition has led to a situation where European media groups struggle to compete with global giants. "European media are small or medium-sized when considered on the European scale and even more so when considered on the global scale," he said. "Very few have a global size, contrary to the Anglo-Saxon or Asian [media groups]. We therefore have an imbalance, which in a certain way is a threat."

"One should try to combine the possibility of concentration [while] respecting competition rules," he said.

Cavada deplored the absence of pan-European media groups, saying that Bertelsmann in Germany was the only European group to bring together broadcasting, book publishing and magazine publishing.

To promote what he calls a "cultural economy" that rewards authors for their work, he says a funding scheme should be put in place to support creation, especially of fiction.

"Today a Lithuanian or Hungarian filmmaker cannot afford to produce films in his country because there is no market to do it. These filmmakers then massively turn to Paris and a little bit to Brussels. This is not normal."

"We are creating an imbalance that throws us into Atlanticism, which means the lowest common denominator that corresponds to the largest circulation due to language."

The fund, which could resemble the defunct European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), should "give the opportunity to authors from the member states to create fiction," Cavada said.

Such a fund, he said, would have to be wider than the EU’s existing MEDIA programme, which he says "is not sufficiently ambitious". "We can't let our cultures die," the French MEP insisted. "They are original and reflect our way of life," he said.

However, he believes information media should not be allowed to benefit from the funding scheme. "I am not saying we should subsidise the media. I am only saying that one should create the market conditions of cultural life, and I was mostly thinking about cinema. But I could say just as much about the book market. I am favourable to a system of remuneration for authors, whatever the artistic activity."

Asked about possible reluctance in Italy or Britain to establish such a funding scheme, Cavada called for a more voluntary 'à la carte' approach.

"If we can't get an agreement with the 27 member states, we should create reinforced cooperation agreements and give examples," he said.

To read the interview in full, please click here (French only).

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