Filmmakers urge EU to stand up to streaming giants

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PARIS (AFP) – More than a dozen top European film directors have called on the EU to regulate streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.

The group led by the Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar and the double Cannes Palme d’Or winner Luc Dardenne have asked to meet the EU’s Internal Market commissioner Thierry Breton in a letter released Wednesday.

The group, which also includes the Romanian Cristian Mungiu, warned that Europe would be reduced to a “colony” of the US and China if its culture is not protected from “non-European digital giants”.

“America understood these cultural and economic stakes when it imposed its films on other countries with the Marshall Plan” after World War II, the directors said in their plea to Breton.

But today Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Netflix (which are known collectively as GAFAN) “have grown a thousand times more powerful,” they wrote.

Lockdowns because of the coronavirus “have allowed them to become wealthier than ever, as other nations and their (entertainment) industries collapsed,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, “by avoiding taxes, the GAFAN companies have contributed very little to the funding of hospitals, education and all the vital apparatuses of European democracies,” they said.

The directors urged the EU to be brave and to impose strict regulations and “appropriate sanctions for what is at stake”, and to stop filmmakers being corralled into “the narrow paths set by platforms and their big data analytics”.

The letter said that Europe’s decision to support the idea of a “cultural exception” with quotas and protection in 1990 has since been copied by 183 countries.

It argued that the South Korean film “Parasite”, which won the best film Oscar as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, was living proof of how policy worked and enriched the world.

Brussels has just begun a review of how it can better regulate tech giants, with the European Commission set to bring forward the so-called Digital Services Act before the end of the year.

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