The MAAP report prompts mixed reactions within the European audiovisual industry
- The report, adopted by the European Parliament last week, sets out several key directions for the short- and long-term EC initiatives on a wide range of audiovisual issues
Last week, the European Parliament adopted its “Europe’s Media in the Digital Decade: An Action Plan to Support Recovery and Transformation” report, compiled by Latvian MEP Dace Melbārde. Also known as MAAP, the document outlines several key directions for the short- and long-term EC initiatives on a wide range of European audiovisual issues.
The adoption of the report has prompted mixed reactions within the industry. One of the first statements was provided by ACT (the Association of Commercial Television and Video on Demand Services in Europe) on 20 October. In detail, broadcasters welcomed “the European Parliament’s call for a holistic strategy to establish a regulatory level playing field allowing media to continue to invest in news and cultural content while protecting European consumers equally online and offline”, and commended the role of territoriality and exclusivity as “a cornerstone of the audiovisual sector”. However, ACT advised caution against “calls for interventionist measures that would undermine contractual freedom, legal certainty and investments in the sector by banning buy-out contracts”.
Following ACT’s statement, Cineuropa asked other industry bodies to express their takes on MAAP. Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of the Federation of European Film Directors (FERA), considered MAAP’s definition of “media”, inclusive of both news media and the audiovisual sector, “not particularly helpful, given the massive differences between them”. However, she welcomed its call for the EC to assess the impact of VoD services on the sector, and to prevent “potentially coercive practices that can hamper creators from enjoying adequate and proportionate remuneration to counter the work-for-hire logic developed by these platforms and buy-out practices. [...] Buy-outs,” she added, “are widely recognised as abusive and unfair to creators, who are in a weak bargaining position when negotiating their contracts, and the ongoing implementation of the 2019 Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is an essential tool for improving the situation of authors and performers, which we are actively working on at the moment.” Moreover, she warned that the goal of “enhancing global competitiveness” should be handled carefully: “We are now back to work in a production and distribution market which is radically different from the one we knew in the past. If this new context is not properly taken into account by EU policy-makers, there will be an immediate price to pay for this approach, which, for creators, is two-fold. On the one hand, [there is] increased pressure on working conditions and remuneration for all creative workers (including directors), as we are reaching the limits of our capacity in the current worldwide production boom. On the other hand, talent and production capacity are sucked out of local independent production, which is the cradle of the most creative, artistic and diverse European audiovisual works. That will have an impact on the diversity and quality of European audiovisual creation in the very near future.”
Meanwhile, Eurocinema’s general delegate, Juliette Prissard, provided some less-than-enthusiastic feedback: “First, media and audiovisual sector-related matters are constantly mixed, and if there is not really a confusion there, there is at least a willingness to consider that the two subjects are closely interconnected, if not the same. Nonetheless, audio producers are fiercely fighting for their independence from broadcasters to guarantee the diversity of financing and narratives.” Although the majority of the relevant subjects are broached, Prissard highlighted the lack of references to the consequences of Brexit and the definition of European audiovisual work. Speaking about AVMS, she explained: “The directive was negotiated from 2016-2018, and it is now being implemented by the member states. For the majority of them, we wish they would take a bolder approach by taking advantage of the current provisions because the market is shifting very quickly. The streamers are producing with us locally, with a huge degree of purchasing and marketing power, and within a worldwide market. Faced with this new situation, producers do not want to become commissioners, but rather want to keep their IPs and guarantee the completion of films. The report suggests that the commission should monitor the evolution of the market – and that’s good – but if we want to keep our industry alive, it will soon be necessary to consider a regulatory approach, whatever that means.”
Finally, Jérôme Dechesne, president of CEPI (European Audiovisual Production Association), judged MAAP to be “overall positive”, despite its stronger focus on news media over audiovisual. Regarding financial support, CEPI approved of the call for the EC to ensure that the Invest Europe initiative should focus on supporting European independent production. It welcomed MAAP’s spotlight on territorial licensing, its ambition to fight intellectual property infringement, its call for the EC to launch an assessment of the impact of VoD platforms on the European market, its understanding of the impact that disproportionate economic powers can have on independent production, as well as the acknowledgement of the negative effects of work-for-hire practices and buy-out contracts. On this last matter, CEPI regretted the fact that the European Parliament did not ask the EC to specifically include in its assessment the impact of new business practices on IP and cultural sovereignty. Finally, it commended MAAP’s take on the transparency of algorithms, but lamented its failure to emphasise the importance of transparency and access to data for producers – in particular, audience data from VoD platforms.
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