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Reactionaries?

Culture
Current Affairs

The European Commission is on the offensive: Promoting the “European project”, fending off the enemies of European values, asserting the power of the European Union on the global stage! At long last our European leaders are speaking out, taking central stage. People of Europe unite! According to the President of the European Commission, the EU is threatened by the villainous reactionary film directors, scriptwriters, musicians and composers or film producers, record labels who oppose the formidable free trade negotiations between the EU and the USA that will bring 100 billion Euros in benefits, save us from massive unemployment, and increase our GDP by 0.5%. All this within reach of 2 years’ negotiations!

The exclusion of audiovisual services from the formidable economic boost that the FTA is purported to represent is threatening this extraordinary bonanza. How selfish can the culture operators be!
The dismantling of Europe’s culture industries and policies is accelerating. The dauntless European Commission is calling into question state aid on cinema (worth 2 billion Euros/year), private copying remuneration (worth 600 million Euros) and territorial licensing (worth the business model of the entire audiovisual value chain) .

The EC bureaucracy continues to evolve in a Europe that does not exist: a Europe with one culture and one language. It ignores the constraint of a cultural market that is not a single market but an assembly of markets, expression of Europe’s diverse languages and cultures.

Not one European media group can measure with the might of US based audiovisual service companies whose marketing and distribution strength dwarf any attempt to introduce competition. Our cultural industries are being kept alive by a drip. It is to be regretted but these are the realities of the market today. They are fighting against an industry whose market is the world and who makes the most of cumulating state support mechanisms throughout the world (in the USA, Canada, South America or Europe) and who can count on the unassailable and unconditional support of the US administration, congress and White House whether at home or to conquer new markets.

Who will defend the interests of the European cultural industries? Does the trade Commissioner know that the market share of European cultural products and services in the USA is less than 5%? How does he intend to tackle the structural barriers that prevent European films or music from reaching the largest market in the world? Has he got a strategy? The truth is that the only strategy is to trade audiovisual for another industry as part of the grand bargaining. Contrary to other industries it is not only sacrificing jobs and indeed an entire industry on the altar of liberal ideology; it is about putting at risk what makes Europe so distinctive and so rich, not only economically but more importantly culturally and socially.

From a liberal policy point of view Europe is not suffering from any competitive disadvantage in creativity, on the contrary. Europe, because of its market structure and operators focused on their local language market has little to gain from international trade liberalization. The large majority of ministers of Culture in the EU recognise this because they know the realities of our cultural and creative enterprise.

The EU is already the most open market for cultural goods and services in the world, an openness that nourishes talents across the continent and beyond. Europe is the birth place of book publishing, recorded music, opera, theatre, pop music, literature, great architecture, fashion and design. Because of its education system and its formidable cultural resources, it is the most creative place on earth.

Europe’s cultural industries and citizens deserve a better European Commission, aware of its facts and its mission. What is the aim of a European institution that sacrifices its cultural resources and speaks out against artists and creators?

Philippe Kern Founder and Managing Director of KEA

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