Facing the future of the audiovisual industry at the MIA
- A panel involving representatives of funding bodies and audiovisual associations aimed to predict the near future of the Italian and European financing and production sectors
The panel “Future-proofing Europe: what is ahead for AV industries?”, organised during the MIA Market in collaboration with MEDIA Creative Europe Desk Italy, aimed to investigate the approach of the European Commission in reshaping the future landscape of incentives and recovery measures. The panel was moderated by Bruno Zambardino, head of European and Italian affairs for movies at DG Cinema e Audiovisivo of MiBACT.
In her welcoming statement, Lucia Milazzotto, MIA director, underlined that MIA was at the heart of the European film industry and that it was important to continue a discussion that was initiated in Venice. Enrico Bufalini, project manager of MEDIA Creative Europe Desk Italy, mentioned that this period was crucial not only due to the pandemic, but also because the European Commission is now shaping the budget for the next seven years (2021-2027) and this will affect all programmes, including Creative Europe.
Giuseppe Abbamonte, director of Media Policy at the European Commission, DG for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, stated that the Italian audiovisual industry shows resilience in these tough times and might be able to recover well. The Commission also remains aware of the crisis by staying in touch with professionals, while the numbers speak for themselves: cinemas alone have lost €2 billion on a European level during the lockdown. The production sector, still lacking insurance support, has lost around €3.7 billion, while the advertising sector records losses of more than 80% in revenues.
At the same time, non-European platforms are taking over the market, with Netflix increasing its share by 25%; the threat therefore facing producers is that of being transformed from creatives to executive producers merely serving the platforms’ needs. In July, the Italian cultural sector received an extraordinary support of almost €3 billion (similar funds were distributed in other countries as well) and local funding bodies are in charge of distributing this support. The suggested MEDIA budget for the next seven years is around €1.7 billion, with most of it going to creative productions that will need to follow new criteria in order to be eligible. The most important quality for a supported film would be its ability to travel across different countries, since distribution is crucial in attracting a wider audience, which would help both the cultural diversity and the competitiveness of the industry. Collaboration on a European level would be encouraged with support going to co-productions, and through festivals, VoD platforms and cinemas as well. Moreover, a conversation regarding copyright laws has begun, with the aim of protecting rights holders without limiting creative freedom and helping creators be the protagonists in the upcoming digital decade.
When his turn to speak came, Nicola Borrelli, general director at DG Cinema e Audiovisivo – MiBACT, mentioned that the decisions of the European Commission are close to those the ministry has recently taken and that they are also working on applying to the Next Generation EU and the Recovery Fund. Moreover, they are working on a unique procedure that could combine the programmes with the existing supporting schemes. Copyright is a crucial topic, allowing the sector to remain independent and preventing the local industry from turning into mere executive producers for the big players. In that regard, the characteristics of what makes an original production should be precisely laid out. Reviewing the system of public support was also suggested, as this would help to modernise the audiovisual sector — including environmental sustainability directives — and to continue collaborations on an international level.
Furthermore, the ministry is supporting educational programmes, such as the newly initiated ANICA Academy, as it is important for all film professionals to be competitive in new sections including the new technologies and immersive arts. Borrelli also went through the extraordinary support that has been given recently across the audiovisual sector in detail, and the suggestion made to the Italian government to increase the annual budget for the upcoming three years. Despite the fact that there are no exact measures fully covering the increased insurance expenses which productions face due to the pandemic, the ministry is securing their funds if production stops due to COVID.
The audience has access to more content than ever, underlined Francesco Rutelli, president of ANICA. He also argued that the sector doesn’t need financial aid only now, but also in order to face the competitive digital future. He also questioned the decreased predicted budget of MEDIA of €1.7 billion for the 2021-2017 period, as in the previous seven-year term, it had been €2.8 billion. On the issue of territoriality, he explained that it was not only a demand from the producers, because it is crucial to protect the market from the big platforms conquering everything and leaving no space for independent productions. This however does not mean that the platforms should not invest locally, but that there should be clear rules to make it fair for all players. Finally, Rutelli praised the producers for their bravery in continuing filming now in Italy despite a lack of clear insurance support, and thus keeping a rich film industry alive.
Finally, Giancarlo Leone, president of APA, suggested that the dialogue between the producers and the government should continue in order to find sustainable solutions. Regarding the threat of streaming platforms, he mentioned that in 2019, out of the €1.2 billion value of production, almost 40% was for series commissioned by broadcasters and platforms. It is possible that the platforms will become the biggest investors in Italian production, and it is therefore fundamental to have a framework regulating both deals and negotiations in order to avoid a “colonisation” of the local industry.
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