Spanish distribs knock cinema law

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MADRID -- Spain's distribution community has added its voice to the growing chorus of dissent against the government's proposed cinema law, saying the bill interferes with free competition and unfairly works against their interests.

In a press statement Tuesday, Fedicine, Spain's federation of distributors, insisted on the need for non-interference with business arrangements made between companies. But added that it applauds the government's support of new technologies and European films.

The Spanish government has proposed sweeping legislation that affects each sector of the film and television industry. It is open for discussion among the affected parties through January and then it will pass to the parliament for a lengthy procedure that could see it voted on this summer.

Earlier this month, broadcasters and exhibitors expressed their disagreements with sections of the bill.

"In view of the new law, Fedicine asks for the ministry to allow the free play of market forces, considering that the arrival of new technologies, piracy and globalization are changing the market for everyone: producers, distributors and exhibitors," the statement said. "The ministry would do well to use this opportunity to draft a text that reflects the new reality facing the industry and defends the interests of all involved equally."

The federation also took issue with the inclusion of a "catalog" of unlawful practices in the legislation, charging that the government looked to protect the exhibitors unfairly.

Furthermore, the federation disagreed with the criteria used to determine whether or not distributors and exhibitors are independent. Earlier this month, broadcasters expressed similar frustration with the government's effort to define independent producers so as to limit subsidy recipients.

"Little is known about who dominates the movie exhibition market. But in fact it is controlled by large theater chains that grow through mergers and programming agreements that strengthen their position and negotiating ability," the statement said.

The entity said the number of screens controlled by an exhibitor, rather than its financial ties, should be the determining factor in the definition of independent.

Spain's exhibitors set a European precedent last year when they won government backing via antitrust authorities against U.S. distributors for what they called "mafia-like" practices of consolidation and coercion. The distributors maintain that the exhibition sector, which sees some 50% of its revenues fall into the hands of three leaders, is equally consolidated.
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