Posts Tagged TTIP

5 years of SAA

SAA_5AASAA was created 5 years ago to represent the interests of collective management organisations (or CMOs) for audiovisual authors.  When we say audiovisual authors we specifically mean screenwriters and directors of film, TV and multimedia programmes. Music composers are also authors of audiovisual works but their rights are dealt with by music CMOs.

Being created in 2010 makes us relatively young – many other European organisations in the audiovisual sector or creative industries more broadly have been around for longer.  We have grown quickly from 9 founding members to 29 members in 22 countries.  But why was there a need to create the SAA?

The founding organisations set up the SAA because they felt that, in discussions with the European institutions, too often the issues of creators and copyright were treated through the perspective of music. This may have been because the music industry is more organised than the audiovisual sector (collective rights management is commonplace) or was the first to suffer from mass unlicensed exploitation and distribution online.  However, the two sectors, although based on the same broad principles, and both relying on authors’ rights and copyright as a foundation, function very differently and many of the issues facing the different creative sectors cannot be resolved just by fixing the problems of one sector.

We also aim to improve the understanding of how Europe’s audiovisual sector works, not only how it is different to the music sector, but also how it differs from the Hollywood studio system. Production, financing, distribution, promotion and exploitation of European films do not face the same challenges as for US studios. Our national markets and SMEs are simply not comparable to the studios, let alone the internet giants. TVs also play a crucial role in financing and supporting cultural diversity in Europe that is specific to us. Europe’s audiovisual sector is therefore extremely diverse, and so is the situation of its collective management organisations.  Some CMOs manage both screenwriters and directors’ rights, others just directors, others just screenwriters.  Some countries have competing societies, others have one single organisation for all authors irrespective of the sector.  There are many misconceptions and we would like to help rectify that while bringing transparency on the work of our members.  Our main work towards this has been through our two white papers (2011 and updated in 2015) which clearly present the diverse situation of Europe’s screenwriters, directors and their CMOs.

SAA’s main focus has been on ensuring screenwriters and directors are remunerated for the use of their work (from a legal, licensed source), something that is unfortunately not the case today.  We want film and TV fans to know that when they watch a film or TV show, that the screenwriters and directors are being paid.  One off payments at the moment a film or television programme is made cut authors out of the future success of their creative works and are contrary to the principle of authors’ rights. This has to be fixed at EU level to ensure that all European authors get remuneration wherever their works are exploited in the EU.

However, while this is our lead area of action, it is obviously not our only area of work.  We care about the general condition of the sector in which screenwriters and directors work and we also want European works to be able to circulate better across Europe.  Our joint wish-list for the new 2014 European Parliament, prepared with FERA and FSE, demonstrates the range of European issues that are important to the wellbeing of Europe’s film-makers: audiovisual policy, the regulation of internet platforms, international trade, intellectual property rights’ enforcement, etc.  A look at the last 5 years of SAA’s work also demonstrates the range of issues we work on.

Authors’ rights and copyright have been identified as priority action areas by the European Commission.  It looks like the next 5 years will be just as busy.


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The Lives of Others

The popular winner in the press after the European Parliament elections is ‘others’, a mix of national eurosceptic, extreme right and anti-establishment parties that together represent the 3rd highest grouping (estimates put EPP at 213 seats, S&D at 189 seats and other at 105 seats). These parties are not affiliated to other established groups.  They may well try to form their own group (as is the wish of Mrs Le Pen from France’s Front National) or join some of the established groups.

The presence of these ‘others’ is going to present a real challenge in the European Parliament.  While the EPP and the S&D will continue to be the two big groups, they will only command just over 50% of the house.  This will make it difficult for those two groups alone to ensure any legislation through a grand coalition and could lead to the ALDE group being drafted in to create a more solid alliance (up to around 63% of the house).  The question remains as to whether these groups have enough in common to make such an alliance meaningful. At the same time ‘left to centre’ (GUE, Green, S&D, ALDE) and ‘centre to right’ (ALDE, EPP, ECR, EFD) coalitions don’t even reach 50%, making a grand coalition the only way of guaranteeing any certainty on key votes.

President of the Commission

The EPP has won the most votes, entitling them to put forward their candidate, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, for the Presidency of the European Commission.  S&D candidate Martin Schulz is still jockeying for position though, and keeping the pressure up by noting that the EPP haven’t got an outright majority and will need socialist support for Juncker to get through.  Socialist support will mean something in return and Schulz may well be the German Commissioner in the next College.  If/Once Junker is put forward then the Member States will have their say.  Some mischievous rumours suggest that Juncker will be put forward knowing that the Member States will reject him and a runner-up prize that both he and they would prefer, perhaps Herman van Rompuy’s spot as Council President.  Given the weak majority that the Socialist support would bring, Guy Verhofstadt is no doubt trying to underline the value of his group, ALDE, in supporting Juncker and secure something for himself at the same time.


The first process after the elections will be to form European Parliament groups.  While the traditional groups (NGL/GUE, S&D, Greens, ALDE, EPP, ECR, EFD) will probably continue (with the possible exception of EFD), as mentioned in the introduction, the big impact will be from the ‘others’.  Having a group in the European Parliament has certain advantages – it brings a not insignificant amount of financial support to pay for a group secretariat and advisors, interpreters for meetings and so on.  A group must be made up of at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 Member States. Mrs Le Pen has already announced her intention to try to form a group.  While her party alone provides 24 MEPs she now needs to find 6 other national parties (the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria will probably form 3 of the 6, with the possibility of drawing Italy’s Liga Norde from the current EFD group leaving parties from 2 more Member States to be found).

Big winners and newly elected parties like the Italian Five Star Movement (17 seats), or the handful of new parties from Germany will probably receive overtures from established groups to beef up their numbers.


The extremist parties have traditionally been non-participative.  If this continues it will have a significant impact on the power of some countries’ delegations.  As the best example Mrs Le Pen’s victory in France decimates the power of the French delegation which has potentially lost 21 MEPs plenary votes on issues of importance to France.

The German delegation on the other hand comes out of the elections even stronger being the biggest delegation in the EPP group (34 out of 213 seats) and the second biggest in the S&D group (27 out of the 189 seats, after Italy with 31).  This will give Germany considerable clout when voting on issues of national importance.


Once the groups have been decided, the committees and committee members (and chairs and vice presidents) will be established.  This is where the delegations can have an impact in guaranteeing chairmanship positions in key committees etc.  So far the only call for a new committee has come from Dutch liberal MEP Marietje Schaake who would like to see a digital affairs committee.  The impact of the ‘others’ will then depend on whether they continue their previous tradition of non-participation (not drafting, amending or voting on reports) or decide to engage in the Parliament processes.  This could mean more reports on issues such as migration or limiting EU powers.

Policy Impact

The rise of the ‘others’, predominantly made up of Eurosceptic and far-right parties, will probably make votes on more Europe difficult in the coming 5 years.  What might be the impact of that on issues such as tax-harmonisation or strengthening the internal market for services?  There may also be an impact on trade agreements with the TTIP negotiations likely to be lengthier in the face of growing popular opposition to the deal in countries like Germany.

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Let’s get Europe’s audiovisual works out

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.

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To negotiate or not to negotiate

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.

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