ZAGREB: At the first meeting of MEDIA held in the Balkans, marking the 25th anniversary of the MEDIA Sub-programme on 17 November 2016, MEDIA Desk representatives and film fund directors expressed their concerns about continued access to MEDIA funding and the creation of the EU single digital market.
The intensity of interest from across the region was apparent in the attendance at the day-long event, with well over 100 participants and 40 international guests from countries including Serbia, Bulgaria, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia and Albania in attendance.
While Soon-Mi Peten, who is the MEDIA Programme’s Head of Promotion, Training and Festivals and specialises in development support, pointed out that the “low capacity” countries claim a disproportionately large share of funds in the single project funding scheme, some 48%, acting director of the Bulgarian National Film Center Kamen Balkanski pointed out that the biggest funding scheme is distribution and that those funds go primarily to the five large capacity countries. In the wake of complaints from the large capacity countries that their film projects are not getting their fair share of funding from the single project scheme, the MEDIA Programme is set to review whether to retain its points system, which is meant to “level the field” by giving low capacity countries an automatic ten points and medium capacity countries an automatic five point on their applications, His colleagues from across the region echoed the concern that the loss of that the elimination of the points system would result in a drastic loss of funding for low capacity countries, which are already unable to get MEDIA Programme funds in other schemes.
Malta Film Commission representative Jean Pierre Borg emphasised that point, saying “We can’t access the funds. Malta is too small.”
Balkanski also pointed out that Bulgaria has no ability to receive funds from some other schemes, such as the one that involves TV funding. “It’s impossible to make a deal with three TV stations. Some funds are not practically accessible to us.”
For the Balkan countries, MEDIA Programme funds are an important factor. They account for as much as 8 percent of funding for Bulgarian films, where the only domestic funding source is the National Film Center. Balkanski added, “MEDIA is a quality label.”
Martina Petrovic, head of the Croatian MEDIA Desk and organiser of the event, said, “MEDIA support is often helping filmmakers get national funds.” She warned, “MEDIA’s new eligibility regulations will result in fewer applications.”
The second issue stirring intense concern in the region is the single digital market initiative. Hrvoje Hribar, head of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, said, “The problem is we don’t see the clear limits of portability.” He added, “When revenues go abroad, the state film funds that rely on national audiovisual funds (such as TV advertising revenues), like The Czech Republic, Poland and Croatia, will be damaged. How do we get those funds from abroad?”
Croatian copyright lawyer and member of the HAVC board Romana Matanovac commented, “We have to destroy copyright to create a single digital market,” adding, “All the initiatives are hurting small players.” She also addressed the issue of piracy, which is still a growing problem in Europe. “The European Commission is not taking any steps against the big players,” referring to the internet providers who are enabling pirated film viewing.
Financial consultant Linda Beath noted that 68% of European watch pirated content, adding, “The single digital market is piracy. There is no central European single digital platform.”
The official EC and MEDIA Programme representatives at the meeting left with promises to take the concerns of the Balkan film industry back to their colleagues. Petrovic summed up the mood of the event, saying, “We are really hungry for European attention. We would like the European Parliamentarians to visit us more often.”