Spain casts media net in int'l waters

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MADRID -- American moviegoers, television viewers and music fans may soon be getting a large dose of entertainment from Spain thanks to a Spanish government plan outlined Thursday to help internationalize the country's cultural offerings.

"The Spanish language is gaining around the world, especially in the U.S. and that's one of our big targets," Industry, Tourism and Trade minister Joan Clos told some 300 executives from the film, television and music sectors at a conference titled "Learning to Export: Cultural Content for the World."

"At the same time, technologies like digitalization, the Internet and telecommunications will make it easier for all of you to export Spanish entertainment and cultural content so we can better compete with the U.S.," he said.

Budgeted at 20 million euros ($29.3 million), the plan includes helping entertainment companies market their products at trade fairs, providing training at Spanish embassy commercial departments abroad for company employees, financing foreign promotional campaigns for Spanish product and assisting Spanish entertainment companies seeking to open branches abroad.

The recent international success of such Spanish movies as "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Orphanage" have opened the eyes of the world to the quality and expertise of Spanish filmmakers and the government wants to build on that to trumpet the country's other entertainment offers, said an official from the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute

"We have even recently signed an agreement in the U.S. for Los Lunnis," said RTVE president Luis Fernandez, referring to the pubcaster's popular children's show featuring Muppet-like characters.

In 2006, the last year for which figures are available, Spanish film, television and other audiovisual content producers earned 96 million euros ($140.5 million) from overseas sales, according to the Foreign Trade Institute.

Canada, Germany, the U.K., France, Italy, Mexico, Japan and China are also important markets the Spaniards want to crack, but the biggest prize -- and the biggest challenge -- is the U.S., the participants stressed.

And the growing Hispanic population there certainly helps Spanish-language content, they argued.

One speaker noted that there are now 40 million Spanish speakers in the U.S., a number almost equal to the entire population of Spain.

Alfonso Mardones, the operations director of the Arbol Group which includes Spanish television production company Globomedia, told the forum that the key to challenging U.S. programming around the globe is to "develop series which are not only successful in the local market but which can also be easily adapted for foreign audiences."
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