European Parliament Wants TV, Movies Excluded From U.S. Trade Talks

The Euro lawmakers table a resolution to exclude audiovisual services from the negotiations with the U.S. set to start next month.

LONDON – The European Union Parliament said Thursday it passed a resolution to keep culture off the table in next month's U.S.-EU free trade talks.

The resolution seeks the exclusion of audiovisual services from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The MEPs overwhelmingly backed the start of negotiations for the proposed free-trade agreement, but asked that cultural and audiovisual services, including online ones, be exempt from any deal "in order to protect the cultural and linguistic diversity of EU countries."

The resolution passed with 381 in favor, 191 opposed and 19 abstentions.

The EU and the U.S. are set to begin talks next month aimed at eliminating trade barriers and increasing commerce between the world's two biggest economies.

The European Broadcasting Union welcomed the Parliament's move to keep culture away from the trade talks.

“The European Parliament has made a bold call to maintain a strong and diverse audiovisual sector in Europe," said EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre.

"It demonstrates that the institution representing the interests of Europeans is committed to supporting and preserving Europe's multicultural identity.”

Earlier this week, the EBU called on the European Union to exclude audiovisual services from negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, arguing that full free trade for the sector would have "serious, adverse effects."

EU Member States will have the final say on the matter in mid June.?

Earlier this month, the European Film Academy threw its support behind an online petition launched by the French association of film directors and producers that calls on the EU to preserve the so-called "cultural exception" for Europe's audiovisual industry.

In Europe, the movie industry is heavily subsidized. Most major productions rely on forms of national, regional and/or pan-European funding.

As of last week, more than 5,000 directors, writers, technicians and producers across Europe had backed efforts to keep the film industry excluded from the upcoming free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union. Dozens of leading European filmmakers, including Michael Haneke, Mike Leigh, Michel Hazanavicius, Aki Kaurismaki, Stephen Frears and Pedro Almodovar, as well as international directors that rely on European film funding, such as David Lynch and Jane Campion, have signed the online petition.

Many fear that changing the current system would only increase Hollywood's box-office dominance in Europe.

Last year was a strong one for European productions, as Britain's Skyfall and French comedy The Intouchables became cross-border hits. Still, U.S. productions accounted for 62.8 percent of ticket sales across the 27 European Union countries.

The debate about the issue kicked off earlier this year when the European commissioner for trade, Karel De Gucht, presented a draft negotiation mandate for the U.S. trade talks, which are set to start this summer. It included the film and TV industries as part of the talks, sparking fears among industry folks across the continent.