EU's Media 2007 to promo Euro film industry

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BRUSSELS -- The European Union's Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding will launch on Sunday the Media 2007 program at the Berlinale, which will provide €755 million ($981 million) over seven years to help Europe's film industry.

The program's priorities include strengthening the production structure of the European audiovisual sector, particularly for small businesses; helping countries or regions with low production capacity or a restricted geographic and linguistic area; and supporting digitization. Reding is expected to call on European filmmakers to embrace digitization to help overcome the fragmentation of the European market and improve the access to Europe's film heritage.

Almost 65% of the program's total budget will help screen European works beyond the EU's borders. The funding is focused on the phases before and after film production, with a budget spread across five action lines:

Training, including scriptwriting techniques; economic, financial management; digital technologies (7%);

Development of projects, catalogs, new talent, and co-productions (20%);

Distribution through distributors, sales agents, broadcasters, cinema exhibitors and digitization (55%);

Promotion through market access, festivals, common events, and heritage (9%);

Horizontal actions to make it easier for small, and medium enterprises to access funding, and to encourage the presence of European films on digital platforms (5%);

And pilot projects embracing new technologies, such as digital technologies for film development, production and distribution (4%).

The European Commission, the EU's executive authority, says every euro invested in the Media program generates €5.8 ($7.5) in follow-up investments, €2.8 ($3.6) in education, €7.2 ($9.4) in distribution and €4.2 ($5.5) in development. The program's priorities also emphasize the importance of European cinema for intercultural dialogue, linguistic and cultural diversity, principles of human dignity, equality and nondiscrimination.

Previous Media programs have supported the development and distribution of thousands of films over the past 16 years, as well as training activities, festivals and promotion projects throughout the continent. Half of the European films seen in cinemas enjoy EU support.

About 300 European films annually are backed by Media, as well as more than 50 European films distributed outside their countries of origin, including Oscar-winning documentary "March of the Penguins," "Amelie," "Volver," "La Vita e Bella," "Mondovino" and "The Wind That Shakes The Barley."

Seventeen Media-backed films are being shown at the Berlin festival this year, up from 12 in 2006. Eight of this year's 26 movies competing for top prizes at Berlin received Media aid: Olivier Dahan's "La Vie en Rose," Sam Garbarski's "Irina Palm," Bille August's "Goodbye Bafana," Stefan Ruzowitzky's "The Counterfeiter," Jacques Rivette's "Don't Touch the Axe," Andre Techine's "The Witnesses," Saverio Costanzo's "In Memory of Myself," and Francois Ozon's "Angel."

Four of the five films nominated for this year's best foreign-language film at the Oscars received Media aid: "After the Wedding," "Days of Glory," "The Lives of Others" and "Pan's Labyrinth."

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