No news in the Senate for the approval of the General Law of Audiovisual Communication, which has gone ahead thanks to the votes in favor of the PSOE and PNV and the key abstention of the Popular Party. The script marked out a month ago in the Congress of Deputies is repeated, when the PP abstained from carrying out a law that it had even confronted the two parties of the Coalition Government. The vote in the Senate has gone ahead without accepting any of the amendments presented by the rest of the political parties, so the rule will not have to return to Congress and is ready for implementation.
Intellectual property, the challenge of the future to prevent platforms from taking all the cake
All the groups have highlighted the shortcomings of the text, with special emphasis on the definition of independent production, changed at the last minute by the PSOE before its presentation in Congress and which caused almost the entire sector to protest. A change of a word with which the door was opened so that companies that, a priori, were not considered independent, could count as such to comply with the mandatory production quota established by the new Law.
The spirit of this law had two purposes. On the one hand, to transpose the European directive on this matter, with the aim of organizing a sector that since 2009, when the previous regulation was approved, has experienced a revolution thanks to new technologies, with the appearance of new companies and the mass consumption of audiovisual and radio content by catalogue. The second objective is the Government's project to turn Spain into an 'Audiovisual Hub', capturing investment from international companies in this sector, either to attract venues or to produce their products from Spain.
Combining the two things, the law establishes the requirements set by the Commission in the defense and protection of the European audiovisual sector, some general principles applicable to all services in matters of protection of minors, accessibility or non-discrimination of women and, at the same time, time, try to create a business environment that is conducive to attracting investment.
The Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, assured a few hours before the vote that, despite criticism from independent producers, Spanish cinema "will come out stronger." “What some think they have lost with the audiovisual law, we will recover with the cinema law”, Iceta stressed before chairing the meeting of the Observatory for Equality in the field of culture, where she also confessed that they have “found the need to balance three interests, those of the platforms, the private televisions and the producers and it is not easy”.
With this text, platforms such as Netflix or Amazon are equated with private networks and are forced to dedicate 5% of their income to audiovisual production. Of that 5%, 70% must go to independent production. The controversial change in the law means that subsidiary companies of large media groups such as Telecinco Cinema or Buendia Estudios are considered independent for the purposes of accounting for the obligation when they work for a platform. In other words, a film made by Telecinco Cinema for Netflix would be considered independent in order to comply with the obligation established by the Law.
This has been the great battle of the cinema sector, which has not been able to get the Government to change the text, although it has not been the only complaint it has received in its debate in the Senate. Nationalist groups have also criticized the fact that co-official languages are not defended and many have expressed disappointment at the lack of quotas for women.
For its part, the PSOE has once again underlined the importance of the law, the need to implement it as soon as possible, and has once again asked the sector for confidence, to which it has promised that in the text of the Film Law the definition of production independent will be protected in a stronger way. This is the new fear of the industry, that the definition is perpetuated in the next texts and allows the platforms to even monopolize the aid for the smallest films.
“Until now, television production companies were excluded from the independent production concert because they had a direct dependency on their broadcast channel. The last minute maneuver carried out by the PSOE from behind affects us because it allows unfair competition”, explained after the approval in the Congress of Deputies Jordi Oliva, president of PROA, the federation of independent producers. Oliva was speaking on behalf of the PAP (Audiovisual Platform for Independent Producers), which includes 600 companies and has launched a statement against this amendment. "We do not have a television financial muscle behind us, we are much smaller and defenseless," he settled.
One of the big complaints from independent producers is that this causes a situation of "unfair competition", since under equal conditions and budgets in a project, the platforms are going to choose the proposals of the subsidiaries of the television networks, since that in the same price include an entire promotional campaign carried out from all its channels and programs that an independent producer should pay as an extra.
The fear is that this will cause a transformation of the sector and that the platforms will only work with a few companies that belong to the big operators, and that independent firms will disappear because a large part of the hiring will stop. According to this vision, an auteur cinema that is the most risky, the next Alcarràs or Cinco Lobitos, is put at risk. Those films that bet on new directors, women directors or co-official languages for the benefit of titles that guarantee an economic return.
The processing and approval of the Audiovisual Law has also increased the crisis of the PSOE with its government partners. In its vote in the Congress of Deputies, it was the first time that United We Can voted differently from the Socialist Party. The Coalition Government expressed its discrepancies by expressing opposing opinions regarding the Law. The same thing happened with ERC, which already made it clear in the budgets that the Audiovisual Law and the linguistic quotas were fundamental for the support of his parliamentary group. Sánchez, in addition, refused to accept a transaction promoted by United We Can, ERC and EH Bildu to return to the initially agreed wording. The Audiovisual Law made it clear that the majority of the investiture had broken.