Audiovisual support programmes pre-2014

EU financial support for the audiovisual sector has come from the MEDIA programmes. Since the European institutions did not benefit from an express legal basis for undertaking action in the audiovisual field, the initial MEDIA programme (MEDIA I), introduced in 1991, was enacted on the basis of the residual powers clause (now Article 352 TFEU) allowing for the adoption of measures necessary for attaining treaty objectives when no specific legal basis was available. The idea behind MEDIA I, aimed at enhancing the development of production and the distribution capacity of the film industry, was that of competitiveness and the set-up of a common market for audiovisual goods (Council of the European Economic Community, 1990). The objective was to address the problems of the industry such as high fragmentation of production, weak distribution and language barriers.

By listing the audiovisual sector among the areas in which the EU could encourage cultural cooperation between the member states, Article 167(2) TFEU explicitly recognised the cultural aspect of audiovisual creation. Accordingly, the cultural dimension of the audiovisual sector gained better recognition in the subsequent MEDIA programmes. Yet, competitiveness and industry concerns remained focal, as illustrated by the legal bases used: Articles 173(3) TFEU (industry) and 166(4) TFEU (vocational training).

MEDIA II, operational for the period 1996-2000, prioritised the cultural and linguistic diversity of cinema works (Council, 1995). However, as EU audiovisual policy emphasised the economic importance of the audiovisual industry, with the underlying objective of 'preventing] the European film market from being dominated by imported products, mainly from the USA' (Europa, 2014), the industrial side of the programme clearly outweighed its cultural one. The same could be said about the Media Plus and Media Training programmes (Council, 2000c; European Parliament and Council, 2001a), which took over the reins of MEDIA II for the period up to 2006.

With a budget of €755 million, MEDIA 2007 was the latest version of the MEDIA programmes (European Parliament and Council, 2006b). Its key objective was 'to strengthen the audiovisual sector economically to enable it to play its cultural roles more effectively by developing an industry with powerful and diversified content' (Article 1(2)). Although by making explicit reference to European cultural and linguistic diversity, audiovisual heritage, and intercultural dialogue MEDIA 2007 paid more attention to cultural considerations than its predecessors, it has been argued that the emphasis on the cultural aspect of the programme was tactical, in order to render it more robust in the face of criticism that it distorted international trade in audiovisual goods and services (Craufurd Smith, 2007b: 67). Recognising the 'importance of international markets to overcoming the problems of the European audiovisual industry' (European Parliament and Council, 2009a: Recital 11), MEDIA Mundus (2011-2013) sought to encourage audiovisual cooperation and cinematographic co-productions with third countries.

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