The government decree “regarding Cinema in Television” is first of all, challenging Italian cinema, by pushing it to work in more ambitious ways. Praises and criticisms so far have focused on programming quotas, sanctions, broadcasters’ responsibilities and non-linear service providers (TV on demand, new platforms, major global operators), but they have failed to mention how this legislative decree, entitled “Promotion of European and Italian works by audiovisual media service providers” – which will now receive the views of Parliament and the Council of State – is crucial to our industries. Perhaps, it is time for Europe to overcome decades of controversy and conflicting interests on the so-called “cultural exception” (the battle, spearheaded by France, to remove creative productions from trade negotiations, in favor of protecting them as an original European productive asset). Radical technological changes, and global disruptive power moves, in fact, could get the belligerents figures of the past (independent producers, televisions, authors, majors) to agree in favor of a strategic alliance that will enhance and promote our content, our industries and our skilled jobs. It is no coincidence that for the first time, the whole industry is in agreement with the Italian government to counter art. 2 of the EU’s SatCab Regulation proposal, which undermines the capabilities and rights of countries with important film and audiovisual industries as well as European competitiveness. The law approved by the Gentiloni government, based on the proposal by Minister Dario Franceschini, wants to complete the System Law that the Minister of Culture himself, with ample support from Parliament, launched during the Renzi government. This levers on an important concept: cinema and audiovisual work as an integrated production sector. There must be no contrast between the authorial, innovative, or research aspect, and the industrial dimension: without the former, the industry is ruined; without the latter, the relationship with the public remains marginal. After decades of arguments concerning “assisted” films and the support of blockbuster films, it is time to understand that the times have changed. We must succeed if we want to promote Italy and Europe as more than just consumers of goods embedded in the new platforms. There is room for everyone, but only if we learn how to renovate. We are no longer caught between those who want to be part of open markets and those who defend impossible autarchies. Freedom and prosperity need strong industrial players, capable of looking for audiences wherever they are. The avalanche of content entering movie theatres (stationary for ticket sales), home videos (decreasing) and streaming platforms (increasing) will certainly require both quality – and important segments for “niche” public – and significant budget productions, capable of captivating the international markets, and not just the domestic ones. This means investments. Not assistance expenditures – unless expressly stated that this is the case – but productive investments for the most strategic sectors. Public investments (improving), investments in television networks, investments for on-demand operators and investments on new generations of Italian talents and technicians. Everyone knows – and verbally appreciates – the formative, symbolic and promotional value of cinema, especially for our country. Some people believe movie-going is at an all-time low. Indeed, Italian cinema is facing the following problems: a transitional phase, a product identity research (obvious at this time), and a change in the fruition methods of films. Few remember, however, the enormous phenomenon triggered by the film industry: the vision of over 15 million films every day. I repeat, there are more than 15 million daily views – taking into account theatre tickets, rentals, purchases, downloads, pay tv, general TV and free digital channels – in Italy alone. As for movie theatres, the numbers are there: our cinemas sell four times the number of tickets sold for any Italian sport event (including the Serie A soccer matches), and significantly more tickets than all the entertainment sectors – shows, music, culture, sport – put together. If we look at the successes of films aimed at children, we also realize the bonding value cinema holds for our families and younger generation. France has long been considered a positive parameter for the promotion of these industries. The results are worth noting: double the number of tickets is sold in France compared to Italy, and more than twice the number of films are national productions. Even the significant assignation of at least 400 million euros annually to films and audiovisual content through the new Franceschini Law, will account for only half of the resources allocated in France by the CNC, Centre National de Cinématographie, alone (784.5 million in 2016). Personally, I remember the hardships I faced as Minister of Culture, to retrieve the resources of the Entertainment Fund during the three-year period from 2006-2008 (with a total increase of 414 million) that had been drastically cut down and the efforts to introduce an automatic tax credit. The question is this: is cinema and audiovisual support a cost, or an investment? The UK, the Nordic countries and Israel, have seen growth in these funds thanks to important investments and a clear regolamentation. We shouldn’t focus on an increase in the number of productions, but on the growth of their productive value, so as to increase turnover and employment as well as new prospects for creative generations, skilled professions and qualified audiovisual professions. No one should “punish” the broadcasters, but we should find the right equilibrium through common strategies. Nobody is shutting the door on Netflix, Amazon, TimVision, Google, Apple, Facebook, and maybe Snapchat, on the contrary, the law that requires these platforms to produce in Italy and our market is fair. In particular, no one thinks it necessary to impose bad films in prime-time slots. Our producers and directors will finally have the chance to create important works capable of captivating and attracting the audience on their own merits, rather than relying on assistance to reach the more comfortable and protected niches. If we all work together, it will be a win-win operation, where everyone can win.
Francesco Rutelli, Il Sole 24 Ore