Greater coordinated efforts are needed on EU and national levels to support the audiovisual industry, said the EU expert to Nordic professionals.

The webinar ‘The EU Meets the Nordics’ was held yesterday within the frame of the ‘Audiovisual Collaboration 2021’ initiative, co-organised by Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, under its Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.


The bridge-building session was the opportunity for the European Commission’s Lucía Recalde, Head of Unit Audiovisual Industry & Media Support Programmes, and Senior Expert Emmanuel Joly, to create a dialogue with the Nordic industry on the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan (MAAP) and Creative Europe, at a time when EU member states are gradually implementing the game-changing Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

The panel discussion moderated by Danish producer Thomas Gammeltoft (True Content Entertainment Creative Director), was attended by Katrine Vogelsang, Head of Drama, TV2 Denmark and Norwegian producer Gudny Hummelvoll (Hummel Film), president of the European Producers Club.

In an open dialogue, Recalde and Joly offered some reassurance to Nordic professionals on challenging issues regarding rights/IP protection in the era of global streamers, and support to independent production within the next phase of the MEDIA Programme (2021-2027).

Regarding the definition of an ‘independent production company applying for MEDIA support, Joly said “it’s a company that doesn’t have a majority control from a single broadcaster”. “For instance, if a company has more than 25% of its capital held by a broadcasting company, it is no longer independent and cannot benefit from MEDIA support.” Joly said the term ‘broadcaster’ will be clarified and changed probably to ‘audiovisual service providers’ in the new MEDIA Programme, to reflect today’s media ecosystem.

Asked by Zentropa producer Louise Vesth, what the EU could do to support independent producers pressured to give away IPs to major platforms, Recalde reiterated that today, only independent producers have access to MEDIA support. “It works well and we have no intention to change this. However, we realise that this is not enough,” she admitted.

“We are in a highly competitive environment and need to help independent producers get the financing needed to produce content, as they can’t rely solely on grant support,” acknowledged the EU representative, pointing out at the future ‘Media Invest’ mechanism, complementary to the MEDIA Programme support, to be implemented later this year. “It will be a market-driven instrument to boost equity financing and support independent producers that are creative. The Nordic region is doing particularly well in this area,” noted Recalde.

Joly added that MEDIA grants to TV projects are given out on the basis of rights reverting to independent producers after a maximum of 7 years for a pre-sale or 10 years for a co-production.

Questioned by TV2 Denmark's Katrine Vogelsang about the EU position to support local broadcasters fighting for rights, in a market disrupted by global streamers and major integrated groups controlling smaller local producers, Recalde said: “The aftermath of Covid has changed things. In a few months, we will take stock, examine how the independent sector is evolving and how to adapt the current practices. We want to be more pro-active in assessing the market development,” she said.

Challenged by Hanne Palmquist, CEO of Sweden’s Filmlance International, about the definition in the EU support to ‘projects with the potential to travel' and possible risk to diversity, the EU Head of Unit promptly responded that original language content from smaller countries do travel and are regular EU grants beneficiaries. “Iceland for instance has had the biggest support per capita,” noted Recalde, reiterating that “stories locally rooted, with a potential to resonate beyond the local market” is what Creative Europe is looking for.

Quizzed as well about the EU’s ability to help member states align themselves to the AVMS Directive -and its 30% quota obligation of EU content on streaming services in Europe-, the two EU delegates stated that member states are not obliged to comply with the EU Directive. “The audiovisual sector is a responsibility at a national and regional level; our competence is limited,” noted Recalde. “However, I strongly believe that what is needed is bigger efforts at all levels to understand what the European independent production sector means today. We have been reinforced [Creative Europe’s €2.4 billion budget for 2021-2027 is 80% higher than for the 2014-2020 period], however we can’t do it alone. We need coordinated efforts,” she insisted.

Upcoming EU Action Plan and MEDIA programme
In his snap overview of the Media Audiovisual Action Plan (MAAP) with Nordic stakeholders, Joly explained that the “unprecedented” initiative is focused on three areas:

  • Recovery linked to the Next Generation EU recovery plan and its €750 billion package to help the 27 member states revive their economies, damaged by Covid-19. Among the recovery measures is the new MEDIA INVEST initiative, to leverage investments of €400 million over 7 years.
  • Transformation, to lead the audiovisual sector towards a greener and digital new era.
  • Empowerment of citizens, via improved media literacy, dialogue with the audiovisual industry, and cooperation among regulators.

Regarding Creative Europe’s MEDIA Programme 2021-2027, Recalde said “it won’t change much” as support will continue to be earmarked towards content, audiences and creating a conductive environment. “What will change however is how it will be implement,” she stressed.

“More than ever, we need greater collaborations embedded in the way the Media Programme is implemented; we need to foster co-productions, co-distribution, innovation through tools that can contribute to the transformation of the audiovisual ecosystem at large,” said Recalde.

Cross-cutting priorities will focus on inclusiveness (gender and diversity representation) as well as creating a greener and sustainable industry, notably with the introduction of a possible common industry carbon calculator.

“Last but not least, we need to guarantee diversity of audiovisual works across the EU countries, and across talents,” said Recalde.

The bridge building initiative “Audiovisual Collaboration 2021”’s next stop will be at CPH:DOX on April 27.