Italy Plan Would Require Broadcasters to Set Aside Cash for Italian Films

Lorenzo Ornaghi - P 2012
Getty Images

Lorenzo Ornaghi - P 2012

Politics could ultimately play a role in the plan to increase TV backing for domestic made productions.

ROME – Italy is mulling a plan that could dramatically increase support for Italian-made films, through a proposal from two ministries that would require Italian broadcasters to set aside at least 3.5 percent of their revenue for Italian-made cinematographic productions.

The proposal, which could funnel as much as €200 million ($262 million) per year -- much of it new -- to works of “original Italian expression,” is sponsored by Minister of Culture Lorenzo Ornaghi and Corrado Passera, the Minister of Economic Development. It was submitted on Wednesday to parliament, which will have 30 days to debate the merits of the idea.

In specific terms, the plan would require state broadcaster RAI to earmark at least 3.6 percent of its annual revenue for the production, acquisition, financing, buying, or pre-buying of Italian films. Other broadcasters will be required to dedicate at least 3.5 percent of their revenue for the same purpose.

The decree would also require RAI to dedicate up between 1.3 percent and 4 percent of its transmission time, depending on the type of programming, to Italian productions; other broadcasters would be require to set aside between 1 percent and 3 percent along the same lines.

The plan allows broadcasters to draw from funds already designated for European film productions, meaning it will not have a direct impact on the companies’ bottom lines. If passed, it would likely be a significant boon for Italy’s film industry, though it would no doubt come at the expense of Italian broadcasters’ support for non-Italian European films.

It is not clear what impact the upcoming elections could have on the proposal. Italians are set to go to the polls Feb. 24-25 to elect a new parliament. If debate on the measure finishes on time, it will conclude a day before Italians start to cast their votes. If the old parliament does not conclude its debate with a vote, it could mean the measure would face a vote from a different parliament than the one that debated the proposal.

The elections pit three main electoral blocs against each other, with at least one – the coalition headed by media tycoon and three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- directly impacted by the decree. Berlusconi’s television and cinema giant, Mediaset, would be one of the broadcasters required to follow the rules outlined in the proposal.

The two other main candidates are incumbent Mario Monti, the head of Italy’s current coalition government, and former minister Pier Luigi Bersani. Bersani is leading in the polls, but after trailing badly for the last month pollsters report that Berlusconi has picked up ground in recent days.

The country's leading broadcaster did not immediately comment on the proposal.