On 3 December, the Commission adopted an Action Plan to support the recovery and transformation of the media and audiovisual sector. These sectors, particularly hit by the coronavirus crisis, are essential for democracy, Europe's cultural diversity and digital autonomy.
The Action Plan focuses on three areas of activity and 10 concrete actions, to help the media sector recover from the crisis by facilitating and broadening access to finance, transform by stimulating investments to embrace the twin digital and green transitions while ensuring the sector's future resilience and empower European citizens and companies.
Under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, each National Recovery and Resilience Plan will earmark a minimum level of 20% of expenditure for digital. Measures to boost the production and distribution of digital content, such as digital media, will count towards this target. In addition, the Action Plan aims to:
- 1) Facilitate access to EU support via a dedicated tool for media companies to find all relevant EU funding opportunities for them. This will offer guidance on how to apply for relevant EU support, in the context of the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, but also through national recovery and resilience plans;
- 2) Boost investment in the audiovisual industry via a new initiative MEDIA INVEST whose target is to leverage investments of €400 million over a 7-year period;
- 3) Launch a “NEWS” initiative to bundle actions and support for the news media sector. The initiative includes a pilot NEWS invest project with foundations and other private partners, access to loans to be backed by the InvestEU guarantee, grants, and a European News Media Forum with the sector. Particular attention will be paid to local media.
The Action Plan seeks to support the green and digital transformation of the sector:
- 4) Encourage European media data spaces for data sharing and innovation;
- 5) Foster a European Virtual and Augmented Reality industrial coalition to help EU media benefit from these immersive technologies and Launch a VR Media Lab on projects for new ways of storytelling and interacting;
- 6) Facilitate discussions and actions for the industry to become climate neutral by 2050.
Enable and Empower
Finally, citizens and companies are at the centre of the efforts outlined in the Action Plan to enable and empower Europeans. Actions include:
- 7) Launch a dialogue with the AV industry to improve access to and availability of audiovisual content across the EU, to help the industry scale up and reach new audiences and consumers to enjoy a wide diversity of content;
- 8) Foster European media talents including by promoting diversity before and behind the camera, and by scouting and supporting media startups;
- 9) Empower citizens including by strengthening media literacy and supporting the creation of independent alternative news aggregation;
- 10) Strengthen cooperation among regulators within the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) to ensure the proper functioning of the EU media market.
This Media and Audiovisual Action Plan goes hand in hand with the European Democracy Action Plan, which aims at strengthening media freedom and pluralism across Europe, with a focus on the protection of journalists. This Action plan is also fully aligned with the Commission's upcoming proposals on the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, which will aim at modernising the legal framework applicable to digital services in the EU.
Member of the College said
Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager said: “We are committed to help the media sector weather the current storm and challenges brought by the crisis, and to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital transformation in both the short-term and long-term.”
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, added: “Media are not only an economic sector, they are a pillar of our democracy. This is why this plan is so important. It builds on our greatest assets, Europe's diversity and talent, and has at its heart the protection of freedom of expression and artistic freedom. We rely on Member States to do their part and use the tools at their disposal to support the sector, while fully respecting its independence and media pluralism.”
Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton added: “The media and audio-visual industry are severely affected by the crisis we are going through. There is urgency to act now. This industrial plan will be our roadmap for media recovery, transformation and strengthening its resilience. It will give the industry the means to contribute and benefit from the digital and green transitions.”
As time is of the essence for the EU media sector, most of the actions outlined in the Action Plan will be launched already in the first months of 2021. Consultations with stakeholders will be carried out to best implement the actions on the ground.
Longstanding issues, particularly its market fragmentation, have weakened the European audiovisual and media sector vis-à-vis their global competitors. These weaknesses have been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, with falling advertising revenues, the collapse of cinemas (with losses estimated at €100,000 per screen per month during lockdown), and production on ‘standby'. This situation, in a moment when online non-EU platforms are gaining large market shares, may jeopardise the strategic autonomy of the EU media and audiovisual sector. As regards news media, falling revenues (advertising revenues dropped between 30% and 80%) and online disinformation coupled with the emergence of ‘news deserts' in certain parts of Europe are particularly worrisome. In general, there is also a limited uptake of digital technologies by the sector.
The Commission put forward a series of measures to support the economy during the crisis and has called on Member States to make the most of them to support media sector. A temporary state aid framework has been put in place rapidly and extended and additional cohesion funding has been made available through REACT-EU, where the culture sector has been recognised as a priority. The temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) is also an important instrument available for Member States to fight the negative economic and social consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.
In parallel, the Commission has adapted existing tools, for example the existing guarantee facility for SMEs in the cultural and creative sectors, including media, to allow for more flexibility in repayments of loans and to facilitate lending by giving more security to the financial institutions.
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