Posts Tagged Cultural Diversity
And by out, we mean out there, being watched.
The dust is still settling following the agreement of the negotiation mandate for the free trade agreement between the EU and the US.
We were particularly pleased to see audiovisual services excluded from the mandate. What was disappointing was to see this portrayed as a victory for France and French cinema. While France was clearly the most vocal country in defending its ability to support its local cultural creators, the victory was one for European cinema.
SAA called, along with other European groupings of screenwriters, directors, producers, distributors, broadcasters, cinemas, for audiovisual to be excluded (see here). SAA represents collective management organisations for screenwriters and directors from across Europe – not just French ones. The same applied to the other organisations. Europe’s patchwork of different systems and regulations from country to country has created a sophisticated support mechanism for the creation of audiovisual works, essential to maintain and enhance diversity and circulation. As technology advances, and the internet continues to change the audiovisual landscape, European countries need to be able to adapt their support and regulation systems in a period of rapid evolution.
As we have said before, Europe’s diversity is its strength. We should be looking to implement policies that enable European creators to seize the digital opportunities to get our works and our vision of the world out. Now that the mandate is adopted, let’s focus on doing that.
Last week the European Parliament made a very strong statement. By a large majority they sent a clear message to the Council and the European Commission: “Europe’s cultural exception is not negotiable”.
The line of the Commission is that everything needs to be on the table for the EU-US Free Trade Agreement (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, for those who love acronyms and twitter hashtags) to maximise its potential. If the Europeans start excluding this and that, then so will the Americans. In short, the Commission is saying:
“Everything needs to be on the table but don’t worry, we won’t actually negotiate everything. The cultural exception definitely won’t be negotiated. Honest.”
One of the analogies that has been used is that of a game of cards and “having the best hand”. Within such an analogy it strikes me that cultural diversity is more like the house that you are ready to gamble. If you don’t want to lose it, then you shouldn’t put it on the table.
Europe’s diversity is one of its key assets. As Harvey Weinstein said while defending the cultural exception in Cannes “Great business is by being different”. But it comes with its own challenges. Our cultural works don’t have automatic access to large markets. The subject matter can even be very specific to a particular country or culture, making it difficult for a film to travel. Subtitling is a minimum for works to cross borders and some countries won’t go for anything less than full dubbing. But their is a clear evolution. The breakthrough of European TV productions across Europe and beyond is proof that the complex support systems we have built are maturing.
If you want to maintain Europe’s ability to create cultural works it can shout about – sign the film-makers’ petition.
The Council votes on the negotiating mandate to be given to the Commission on the 14th June. We need to keep the pressure on.
Yesterday I attended “Culture, An Added Value For Europe”, an event (excellently) organized by the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity in collaboration with the European Platform on the Potential of Cultural and Creative Industries and moderated by Carole Tongue, former MEP.
Given all the fuss that Megaupload, Sopa, Pipa and ACTA have caused (I’ll leave that for another post, watch this space) it was refreshing to hear a debate that focused on the cultural aspect of the works that European creators produce.
I read so much about “content”, this “de-culturalised” word for creative works. Behind these works, these testimonies to different cultures (at different periods in time using different languages), are creators. Their creations are not as British author Maureen Duffy put it, “cans of beans”.
The ratification of the 2005 UNESCO convention was meant to stop the EU bundling our creators’ cultural works in with the rest of its trade agreements. However, it seems that the same people negotiate the trade agreements and the cultural cooperation agreements at exactly the same time. Has anything changed?
There needs to be coherence in the EU’s cultural policies. As Mr Berlinguer MEP said, “It is important that the policies of the European Union consistently respect the principals of the 2005 UNESCO Convention”. The convention means that the cultural impact should be taken into account in all policy decisions. This means adapted fiscal policies, and specific competition rules (think state aid for cinema). This also means acting on more than just copyright and intellectual property but also the financing of creativity.
There are currently trade agreement negotiations under way with Canada which could set the scene for the future as Canada and the EU were the champions to promote the establishment of the UNESCO convention. Let’s hope Europe was listening to its creators yesterday and respects culture in those negotiations.