Battle rages over new Spain film law

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MADRID -- Spain's leading opposition party called for the immediate suspension of legislative procedure of the proposed film law, saying the culture minister had stymied the law's passage irresponsibly and favored the film sector over the television sector.

Beatriz Rodriguez, culture spokeswoman for the center-right Popular Party, accused culture minister Carmen Calvo of turning a project that "should be characterized by consensus" into a "conflict between the two pillars of the law, television and film, due to her demonstrated partiality."

"Culture has turned this bill into a weapon against ... the broadcasters, by not admitting any of their proposals," Rodriguez said.

Speaking to journalists, Rodriguez said the bill should be handled by the vice president rather than the culture minister, and that a period of reflection and debate should be opened.

The proposed film law is a pet project of the present administration and was discussed in closed-door sessions with the concerned parties last year. The culture ministry gave the parties until the second half of January to present proposals.

Since then, broadcasters, distributors and exhibitors have lashed out at the bill, saying it inhibits free competition and disrupts the "delicate balance" between sectors.

Broadcasters, in particular, have been extremely vocal, arguing that upping the amount television companies must invest in Spanish cinema is unconstitutional and unfair.

UTECA, the association representing Spain's private broadcasters, has said the proposed measure is a "measure appropriate of the 19th century" in that it requires broadcasters to invest 6% -- rather than the presently obligatory 5% -- of their revenues in local production.

The bill's draft cites the European Union's Television Without Borders requirement to reinforce the already existent requirement of 5% of revenues earmarked for European production, with 3% destined for Spanish production. The bill allows for 70% of that 3% to be channeled into their own companies and subsidiaries and 30% funneled toward purchasing broadcast rights.

"The culture minister has entered like an elephant in a china shop, turning a text of collaboration into one of aggression against the television sector," Rodriguez said. "There is no conflict between television and film, rather it's between television and the culture ministry."

In light of Rodriguez's comments, the government called a hasty, late-afternoon meeting Friday between representatives from the culture, finance, industry and public administration ministries -- all of which have roles in the proposed bill.

The producers lobby FAPAE has supported the proposed bill.
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