The Government has approved this Tuesday in the Council of Ministers the new Cinema Law, to which is added the tagline "and Audiovisual Communication" to include a cinematographic reality that goes far beyond movies.
The obligations for Netflix and the platforms with the new Audiovisual Law
The norm replaces the one of 2007, launched during the Zapatero legislature, which outraged the Federation of movie theaters for "criminalizing them with impositions without any type of compensation". But times have changed a lot. Now it is the exhibitors who have received direct aid to face the coronavirus crisis and the rest of the production that has been reduced.
The new Film Law seeks to balance institutional support and direct it towards all phases of audiovisual creation. With special emphasis on the last word, since the draft is not only aimed at films destined for cinemas, but also series, documentaries and films released on television. "The law aspires to collect, understand and support audiovisual culture as a whole, richness and diversity, and not be restricted to a single form of creation (cinema)," says the bill.
"There are those who say that including the series and that can harm the cinema. Let's see, excuse me, if they are all the same. We are talking about production companies that make cinematographic work", said the Minister of Culture Miquel Iceta at the press conference after the Council of Ministers.
The platforms exposed
The irruption of the platforms and the change in consumption habits made the previous regulation obsolete, which is why the Cinema Law also includes some sections that directly affect the media of streaming. In this way, Netflix or HBO Max, among others, must share with the Ministry the audience data that until now they have handled with absolute secrecy, in the same way that movie theaters make their attendance figures public.
This request for transparency responds to "guaranteeing the full exercise of intellectual property rights by their owners," according to the preliminary draft. This is already happening, but without public sector control: creators receive royalties based on the success of their projects, as platforms communicate views to rights management companies. What changes with the law is that the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), the body in charge of applying the law, undertakes to publish this data periodically. It remains to be seen what the position of the platforms is, since confidentiality has always been their main ace up their sleeve.
"It is important to have all the data when making decisions and planning projects. We do not have concrete information on the success or not of the platforms, but we do have information on the movie theaters," claims Antonio Mansilla, president of Federated Independent Audiovisual Producers ( PIAF). PIAF participated in the consultation phase of the Ministry of Culture, along with other actors in the sector, and among other things they asked for "details" of the numbers handled by the platforms. "For writers, directors and authors, this information is essential," he recalls.
"We always say that we are delighted that the platforms are in Spain because they generate a lot of work, but we must guarantee our intellectual property rights," adds Jordi Oliva, president of the Federation of Audiovisual Producers (PROA).
In defense of the 'indie'
The other great commitment of the new Film Law is its own creation, in official languages and developed on Spanish soil. In this way, "independent production will be encouraged and favored, with specific incentives" that guarantee its circulation and profitability. But what does independent mean?
This is one of the most controversial points of the standard. The definition of "independent" that appears in the Film Law is more accurate, according to the producers' associations, than that of the General Law of Audiovisual Communication, headed by the Ministry of Economy and which is currently undergoing parliamentary proceedings. The latter would be more lax and, if approved before the Film Law, they warn that it would put some companies in trouble.
"It is an inconsistency in itself that they consider a "commission" from a dependent producer as an "independent production". We have the feeling that Economy and Culture should speak more", values María Luisa Gutiérrez, president of AECINE It makes no sense that the Government itself makes two definitions of independent producer. It leaves the door open for the investments of the platforms to go to companies that have their headquarters outside of Spain and that many of those that are here close. We defend the own cultural creation for its diversity, its language and its richness", also defends the president of PROA.
In his opinion, the Film Law presented this Tuesday by Iceta includes "the claims of the sector" and rejects that "another rule headed by Economy, and in which Culture neither punctures nor cuts, is charged." If this conceptual change is achieved, the piece of the cake is assured for independent production.
Some of the help
The Film Law ensures a greater subsidy for projects that are shot, post-produced and carried out in laboratories within Spain. It will also reward the use of official languages. In addition, it will create a new line of aid for the distribution of Spanish cinema abroad, as it exists in France.
Likewise, "aid may be granted to independent distributors for feature films and short films that publicize little-known areas of audiovisual or that have difficult access to the market; community and Latin American". The rule allows the creation of grants for exhibition halls, "preferably those that carry out specialized programming in European and Latin American production, in original version, that include short films, or based in small urban or rural centers."
In fact, all cinemas must respect a quota: "They must include films from Member States of the European Union or Ibero-American in any version" and at the end of the year all sessions must add up to at least 20%. Within this section, documentaries, animated films, feature films directed by women, films with subtitles in co-official languages, or those that have a low collection that does not reach 200,000 euros, among other requirements, will have double points. This newspaper has contacted the Federation of Cinemas of Spain (FECE) to seek its opinion, but has refused to offer statements.
"It seems reasonable to us. We would have to reach 20% or 30% without the obligation of quotas, but this is the way to go. After all, the exhibitors obtained public resources as a result of COVID," declares Antonio Mansilla, from PIAF. "All these aids added up are relevant and have to be even more so, but the fact is that Spanish cinema is worth it and more than returns what we help. It would be better not to be stingy", continued the Minister of Culture.
Protection of audiovisual heritage
Iceta continued to defend this Film Law at the press conference: "Sometimes it seems that we are appreciated more from outside than we appreciate ourselves and I want Spanish society to deny it. They have already earned being nominated and accepted as important works by the most demanding juries in the world and that is reason for joy, despite some who try to minimize the role of culture as a sector of subsidized and four privileged".
In order to guarantee that everything stipulated in the law is complied with, which still has several months to go before it is processed, they propose creating a State Council for Cinematography and Audiovisual Culture: an autonomous body that will facilitate public-private collaboration. "It seems right to us that there is a follow-up by the State, but also by other key private agents," defends the PIAF spokesman.
In addition, the Film Law declares the Spanish Film Library as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) with which both its facilities and its contents obtain special protection.