Tax law

IRIS Plus 2011-2: An Insight into Selected Film Funding Systems

Author: Christian M. Bron and Peter Matzneller, Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brussels

Published: 01/04/2011

Film aid is not only designed to promote creativity, but it can also be remarkably creative itself in terms of the way it is organised. This is presumably linked to the fact that the definition of common film aid objectives, such as the protection and promotion of cultural diversity and identity or state support for the national film industry, remains rather vague. What is culture? What is diversity? What is the basis of cultural identity? What exactly should and can state subsidies achieve? These questions are wrestled with first of all when the objectives of public film aid are defined. But they must also be answered whenever a decision on the distribution of national and European funding is taken on the basis of these objectives. The real challenge therefore lies in the need to lay down conditions for the granting of aid in advance, so that the decisions taken on that basis are at least practicable and help to achieve the objectives set out.

In order to identify possible or absolutely indispensable elements of such a system, it is useful to compare the different structures and aid criteria on which various aid mechanisms are based. How are film aid systems structured, how and according to what criteria are funded projects selected? Do they share any common characteristics? Do European mechanisms have any influence on the structure of national film aid? Are national systems bound by certain overriding rules?

We have already considered these questions in our IRIS plus “National Film Production Aid: Legislative Characteristics and Trends”, published in 2001. Then, as now, numerous different aspects were taken into account when deciding how funding should be distributed. These include not only the practical criteria used to select projects to be funded, but in particular the identity of the body responsible for distributing the aid, the decision-making procedure, and what exactly the aid is designed to achieve. Then, as now, compliance with the rules of the European Single Market played an important role in the structuring of national film aid. In the course of EU expansion, as well as the continuing increase in cooperation between the EU and certain South-East European states, the influence of EU film policy and EU competition law has gradually grown “geographically”. Until now, very little has been reported on this subject, which is why the aid systems in these countries have hardly been the focus of any attention at all. However, this gap has now been closed by the lead article of this IRIS plus and the additional overview provided by the Zoom section.

The fact that time does not stand still in other parts of Europe, and that aid systems continue to be important and debated regulatory instruments, is illustrated by the section of our report that draws attention to the relevant developments of recent months.