Overview of the Audiovisual Policy of the EU

This is a short overview of the audiovisual policy of the European Union. To learn more about the audiovisual policy of the EU you can read this article on my blog. First of all, I would like to mention that this article is fundamentally based on three books which are:

  1. European film by Anne Jäckel,
  2. European Cinema. Face to Face with Hollywood by Thomas Elsaesser,
  3. and a book about film policy of the European Union and the dominance of the United States by Sabine Jarothe.


All three authors agree that Hollywood is dominant in the film sector. After http://www.obs.coe.int in 2009 around 67% of all cinema movies derive from the US and only around 27% are European movies. Philip Schlesinger even argues that today European Cinema is in a crisis with an increasing domination of Hollywood. But what are the main differences between European Cinema and Hollywood?

Elsaesser worked out same main different characteristics:

Europe vs. Hollywood
art-house or program cinema multiplex cinema
critic as arbiter of taste and quality advertising and marketing
independently produced on a one off basis serially produced within a studio system
financed through government financed by banks and studios
cultural capitals box office
artisanal modes of production industrial mode of production
place-based and context-dependent a state of mind / understandable for everyone
behold to the nation state part of the American Empire
protectionist measures hegemonic position


The difficult situation for the European film industry led to a wild discussion. In the United States films are considered as normal tradat is tradable goods, in Europe they are considered as a matter of culture and therefore should be protected. The Comission of the European Communities stated 2001 that films are “(…) an essential element for the good functioning of our democracies (…)”. Nevertheless, films are an important matter for the EU as there are still unresolved questions. Three of them are:

  1. Should the European Union try to harmonize the European film production or regard the different cultures within Europe?
  2. Is the film subsidy sufficient, especially sufficient enough to compete with US films?
  3. Is the distribution system for European films efficient?


In this overview on the audiovisual policy of the European Union I will focus on the so called MEDIA Programmes and Eurimages. Although this paper focuses on the MEDIA Programmes and Eurimages, it shall not be concealed that the biggest part of film subsidies are still national funds of the member states. Accordingly, there is a great variety of subsidy systems within Europe. Finney (20002: p. 214) listed different subsidy mechanisms in Europe:

Soft, culture orientated subsidy systems This system is culture-driven

Subsidies are rarely recouped

It is normally used in smaller countries (Nordic territories, Benelux, Portugal, Greece and Germany’s federal source of public funding)

Regional, economic loans It is established in the German Länder subsidy system

Film must be produced in the relevant region

 Recoupment is 10%

(Rotterdam Film Funds uses this system too)

The ‘tough’ repayable loan mechanism Cannot considered as a subsidy loan, rather as an equity investment

Is the commercial approach

Used by British Screen Finance and European Co-Production Fund, Scotland’s regional funds and the Irish Film Board.

automatic aid Used in France (and Spain)

Producers get a share of the levy, earned through the gross theatrical receipts on all films. The amount depends on the receipts a film got.

Subsidy is only paid if it goes straight back into film.

selective aid Also in France

Grants are given on the basis of a screenplay

Tax incentives Ireland and France