Tax law

IRIS Plus 2003-3: European Public Film Support within the WTO Framework

Author: Anna Herold, European University Institute, Florence

Published: 01/06/2003

The promotion of cultural diversity and a competitive European film and programming industry continues to be the subject of much debate this year. As part of the public consultation concerning the review of the "Television without Frontiers" Directive, various measures designed to support TV programme production are under scrutiny. In the closely related field of film support, the European Commission has set itself the goal of preparing a new programme by the end of this year. This programme will replace, inter alia, the MEDIA Plus Programme, which expires in 2006. A consultation procedure is also under way on this subject.

However, Europeans are also currently faced with a contradictory suggestion: various states have called for audiovisual services to be made subject to WTO regulations, partly in order that potentially anti-competitive effects of the various support programmes might be recognised and reduced. The European Union has already taken a stance through statements made by the Commission and Parliament in relation to preparations for the fifth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), being held in CancĂșn, Mexico in September. It appears determined not to enter into any commitments in the audiovisual sector.

To accompany the debate on film support in Europe, this edition of IRIS plus describes systematically the areas where public film support and the WTO regulatory framework intertwine. The article concentrates on the compatibility of European film support policy with the GATT and GATS rules.