EU unveils plans for “Creative Europe”

The EU has unveiled plans for a major programme called Creative Europe that would replace the MEDIA programme. The news is of significant importance to European film, TV and music professionals – as well as their international partners.

What is the Creative Europe programme?

The Creative Europe programme would support European cinema and the cultural and creative sectors, enabling them to increase their contribution to jobs and growth. With a proposed budget of €1.8 billion for the period 2014-2020, it would support tens of thousands of artists, cultural professionals and cultural organisations in the performing arts, fine arts, publishing, film, TV, music, interdisciplinary arts, heritage and the video games industry. The goal is also to stimulate operations across Europe,  reach new audiences and develop the skills that are needed in the digital age. In this way, the new programme will also contribute to safeguarding and promoting Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

Why does Europe need a Creative Europe programme?

Culture plays a major economic role in the 27 countries. The cultural and creative industries account for around 4.5% of EU GDP and 3.8% of employment (8.5 million jobs and many more if account is taken of spill-over into other sectors). Between 2000 and 2007, employment in these sectors grew by an average of 3.5% a year, compared to 1% in the overall EU-27 economy. Europe is by far the world leader for exports of creative industry products. So the goal is to retain this position.

Creative Europe takes account of the challenges created by globalisation, in particular the impact of digital technologies, which are changing how cultural works are made, distributed, and accessed, as well as transforming revenue streams and business models. But these developments also create opportunities for the European cultural and creative industries and the programme seeks to help them seize these opportunities, so that they benefit from the digital shift and create more international careers and employment opportunities.

The move inevitably raises many questions, which the European Commission addressed in a recent press announcement.

Why is the Commission proposing to merge the existing Culture, MEDIA and MEDIA Mundus programmes into a single programme?

These sectors face similar challenges, including market fragmentation resulting from cultural and linguistic diversity, globalisation and the digital shift, as well as severe difficulties in accessing commercial lending. They also have similar needs in terms of safeguarding and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity, and strengthening their competitiveness in order to contribute to jobs and growth.

However the Commission recognises that the structure of these sectors is also diverse. That’s why it is proposing a single framework programme, but with separate strands to provide appropriate support.

How will Creative Europe differ from the current MEDIA and Culture programmes?

The Creative Europe programme will combine the current separate support mechanisms for the culture and audiovisual sectors in Europe in a ‘one-stop shop’ open to all the cultural and creative industries. However, it will continue to address the particular needs of the audiovisual industry and the other cultural and creative sectors through its specific Culture and MEDIA strands. These will build on the success of the current Culture and MEDIA programmes.

In addition, it will create a new financial guarantee facility which will enable small operators to access up to €1 billion in bank loans.

What will the programme achieve?

The Commission estimates that, in 2014-2020, at least 8,000 cultural organisations and 300 000 artists, cultural professionals and their works would receive support to cross borders and acquire the experience which will help them to develop international careers. The programme will also support the translation of more than 5,500 books and other literary works.

The MEDIA strand will support the worldwide distribution of more than 1,000 European films, via traditional and digital platforms; it will also provide funding for audiovisual professionals to help them access and successfully work in international markets, and will foster the development of films and other audiovisual works with a potential for cross-border circulation.

There is a lot to build on: thanks in part to MEDIA support, the proportion of European films among all newly released films in European cinemas grew from 36% in 1989 to 54% in 2009. The Europa Cinemas network, comprising over 2,000 screens in mostly independent cinemas, helps to ensure a broad and diverse mix of films for audiences in 475 cities. Their films attracted 59 million admissions in 2009 compared to 30 million in 2000.

What challenges is the programme tackling?

The cultural and creative industries do not currently make the most of the Single Market. One of the difficulties the sector faces is language: the European Union has 23 official languages, 3 alphabets and approximately 60 officially recognised regional and minority languages. This diversity is part of Europe’s rich tapestry but it hinders efforts by authors to reach readers in other countries, for cinema or theatre goers to see foreign works, and for musicians to reach new listeners. A Eurobarometer survey (2007) has shown that only a minority of Europeans watch foreign language TV or films and only 7% read foreign language books.

A stronger focus on support for audience building and on the sectors’ capacity to interact with audiences more directly, for example through media literacy initiatives or new interactive online tools, has the potential to open up many more non-national works to the public. The Commission estimates that well over 100 million people will be reached directly or indirectly through the projects supported by Creative Europe.

Are individuals eligible to apply for funding?

Creative Europe will not be open to applications from individuals. But around 300 000 individual artists and cultural professionals, as well as training institutions, will be reached through the projects submitted by cultural organisations. This is a much more cost-effective way to achieve results and a lasting impact.

Which countries are eligible to apply for funding?

Creative Europe will be open to Member States, as well as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), EU accession and candidate countries, potential candidates and neighbourhood countries. Other countries may be involved in specific actions. Currently, EU Member States, the EFTA countries, Croatia, Turkey, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina are participating in the Culture Programme.

EU Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland participate in the MEDIA Programme.

What would happen to MEDIA Mundus?

MEDIA Mundus, the existing programme which supports cooperation between European and international professionals and the international distribution of European films, will be integrated into the MEDIA strand of Creative Europe.

Creative Europe still needs the approval of the Council of Europe and European Parliament. Can you see any implications for your work and relations with international production partners? Let us know in the forum below.

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