Country Focus: France
Defining a new, level playing field
by Fabien Lemercier
- Netflix and YouTube today, HBO or countless others tomorrow: the growing potential of new services for broadcasting cinematic works in the European market has resulted in the extremely solid French film industry model entering a vicious spiral that could potentially cause some serious instability over time. Thrust under the microscope during the 24th Film Meetings organised by the ARP (the Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers) in Dijon, the discussions shone a spotlight on the regulatory framework, which, on the European level, is currently based on the principle of the country of transmission, allowing the internet heavyweights to free themselves of the rules concerning competition and taxation, but also to rid themselves of the obligations to support the creation and exhibition of works.
Calling for fair treatment, the distributors and financiers of the seventh art in France advocate a system based on consumption being measured in the receiving country. “People often say that these players are elusive. But that is not the case at all!” explained Rodolphe Belmer, managing director of Canal+ (a keystone for the funding of films in France). “Internet distribution is something physical. Netflix and YouTube have a head-end in Paris. We have to define the obligations and the tax system in relation to these physical infrastructures.” This measure, which is technically easy to set up and which met with unanimous approval among all the speakers in Dijon (particularly Vincent Grimond, of Wild Bunch), must now be discussed at the European Union level. According to Frédérique Bredin, CEO of the CNC, the issue of these “heavyweights that are toying with tax optimisation is everyone's business.” France and Germany are already in the process of taking action, and Italy is about to rally behind the movement. A crucial debate is therefore expected on this topic of consumption in the receiving country and not in the country of origin, a reversal of the current approach that will be essential for the preservation of Europe's film and audiovisual industries during a digital revolution that is making the sectors more porous, has a tendency to shift the economic power downstream and is rendering the regulatory framework more complex (read Nicolas Colin's prospective analysis on “The cultural industries after the digital revolution”).