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CANNES 2016 Industry

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New screens, new rules? Thinking it through at Cannes


- CANNES 2016: As the European Commission is pushing for audiovisual rules to be reformed, the industry, supported by national institutions such as the CNC, is calling for action

New screens, new rules? Thinking it through at Cannes
The CNC-SACD conference (© CNC)

There is a common question floating around the film industry meetings that were organised within the framework of the Cannes Film Festival: how do we adapt the creative system to the digital era? And, as the European Commission is actively pushing for audiovisual rules to be reformed, the industry, supported by national institutions such as the CNC, is expressing its worries and calling for action.

On Monday 16 May, at the CNC-SACD conference on new screens, the panel, which gathered together stakeholders and politicians from authors to institutions, even including telecoms, addressed a similar theme: digitisation and new screens as opportunities for better access to cinema, and the establishment of common regulations to maintain the diversity of European creation. Rules must be flexible enough to be adapted for the film industry – a model supply market – while also tackling inappropriate use of technology at the same time. With this in mind, the upcoming paper by the European Commission concerning the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) reform is eagerly anticipated.

“The deadline is almost upon us. The strategic issues really rely on the country of destination principle being adopted for financing rules and taxation, internet intermediaries taking steps towards accountability. We have to do something!” Frédérique Bredin, the head of the CNC, declared.

Delphine Ernotte, president of France Télévisions, focused the discussion on tangible evolution in programme consumption. From September, the public channels’ viewership will be measured through four different media (TV, mobile, tablet and computer), and as films are not part of catch-up TV websites (partly due to differences in the chronology of release windows), which will have an impact on cinema market shares and, in the end, on funding for creation. “We need to protect the value of our films. With the decrease in audience share, we are losing funding options for cinema. We need to find new ways to finance it!” she warned, while insisting on the fact that non-linear consumption of programmes is already dominant.

In terms of producers, Marie Masmonteil, president of the Syndicat des Producteurs Indépendants (Independent Producers’ Union, France), sounded worried but determined: “Our world used to be simple; theatrical films were destined for the theatrical screen, but now things are complicated… For us, the cinema is still the place that gives our films legitimacy, and now we have to be pragmatic. If the world changes, we have to change. We are scared, but in a way, it is interesting to begin an in-depth analysis.”

Meanwhile, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (French High Council for Audiovisual) is gathering data on media consumption. “Intermediaries are showing a growing interest in the content they offer. They are using algorithms to determine what content they should offer, and that can be dangerous for diversity. One principle must remain, regardless of the new ways we use content: anyone who makes money through the exploitation of cinematographic works must be involved in its creation. Not forgetting fair remuneration for rights holders,” Nathalie Sonnac, a member of the Council, highlighted. “We really have to find new mechanisms to make these intermediaries participate,” added David Kessler from Orange.

“We must make friends of our enemies.” Well, that is what author-director and member of the Association Beaumarchais-SACD, Gerard Krawczyk, believes. “Authors are responsible for diversity but intermediaries are responsible for the fight against piracy, everything is linked, and it’s tricky. But we must move on.” Indeed, new devices justify the fact that the Association Beaumarchais has just developed a new scheme for virtual reality writing. New screens are opportunities because they represent new channels for rights holders, and they are complementary to each other, not substituent.

Yet, in terms of negatives, piracy is still the biggest issue. Solutions such as web redirection toward legal offerings and methods drying up these sites’ revenue are not sufficient. “The methods used to tackle this issue must be legal and on a Europe-wide scale,” Fréderique Bredin insisted, but “the individual pirate is also an elector, so don’t expect anything to happen in this pre-electoral period” Pascal Rogard of the Authors’ society remarked from his seat as moderator.

On that sunny Monday in Cannes, you could sense the answer to the question: new rules are definitely needed, but only in consultation with the industry. After an hour of discussions, no good solutions were found, but the message was still more positive than a year ago. “I believe theatres will survive, and I believe platforms are vital”, Viviane Reding, ex-European Commissioner and MEP, said. “We are in an intermediate phase in policy making, we don’t have the full picture yet. We need to join forces, on a continental level, with the biggest creative countries. This is the only way to preserve our creations,” she added.  The European Union motto has always struck a particular chord whenever culture is at stake, as it does now – we must be unified in diversity. Different screens, different works, common means.

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