Portugal’s Film Biz Up In Arms: Gov't Proposes Allowing Streamers To Avoid Film Fund Contributions

Photo courtesy of Vitor Carvalho

Key names in the Portuguese film industry are today publicly protesting a piece of government legislation that would allow international streaming services to avoid making contributions to the Portuguese National Film Fund (ICA), despite the EU mandating the likes of Netflix and Amazon invest back into Euro nations.

High profile film figures including Miguel Gomes (Tabu) and Paulo Branco (Mysteries Of Lisbon) are lending their support to the demonstration in front of the Portuguese Parliament, which saw a healthy turnout.

According to a letter co-signed by some 850 directors, producers and film personnel, the streamers must be forced to re-invest in local industries, particularly after the pandemic era strengthened their businesses.

“If the platforms, which increasingly dominate the market, are not taxed, ICA will be gradually depleted, and less and less Portuguese films will be produced,” said a statement. “If filming in Portugal is already difficult, it will be even more so. With this cut on ICA funding, producers, distributors, exhibitors, festivals, film clubs, among others, will be deeply affected.”

The new film law follows the European Directive of Audiovisual Media Services, which was signed in November 2018 and gave EU countries 21 months to introduce national legislation based on its terms. The EU directive is aiming to create “a level playing field for emerging audiovisual media” and to “preserve cultural diversity” by making streamers re-invest in European nations.

Portuguese producers claim that their government’s incarnation of the law will fail in those proposals by not backing the local industry, which the majority of its support from the ICA.

The laws also apply to national broadcasters, though producers Deadline has spoken to noted that the local networks already make an important contribution to the industry there, while they believe companies such as Netflix do not.

Speaking on background to Deadline, one major streaming service stated it is investing heavily in Portugal through original projects and defended its level of giving back to the local film community.

EU Law

At present, streamers have no obligation in Portugal to re-invest revenues. Deadline understands the current draft of the law would mandate that they pay 1% of “relevant income” into the Film Fund. Separately, they will need to re-invest up to 4% of revenues in European content, which can include in-house productions or acquisitions, though the protesting producers claim there will be no obligation to specifically spend that money in Portugal.

Speaking to Deadline after today’s protest, one producer called on the law to be changed to make the services contribute 5% of revenues back into the ICA to support the wider local industry. They also called for clearer wording in the legislation, including defining “relevant income” more specifically.

The ICA does not receive government support and is entirely funded by company contributions.

“The government is not supporting our productions but they think it’s OK to allow these platforms not to pay,” commented the producer. “The state has a duty to make them contribute to the National Film Fund.”

The investment directive is in addition to the EU content quota, which sits at 30% for streaming services.

Below is the full statement, and signatories, from today’s protest:

“This Tuesday, October 20th, at 9 am, a proposal to change the Portuguese national Cinema Law will be voted on the Portuguese Parliament. The proposal comes as a response to an European Directive designed to compel streaming platforms to contribute to European cinema and audiovisual in each country, but fails on doing so, exempting on-demand video operators, such as Netflix and HBO, from paying levies (fees), which they collect from the monthly subscriptions of Portuguese costumers, and, thus, from contributing to ICA – the public film fund, the institute that regulates and promotes the national cinema and audiovisual. ICA is currently financed by two fees – one on advertising and one on cable television subscriptions. With the migration of viewers to streaming platforms, revenue from the television advertising, cable tv subscription fees, or theatrical advertising is on a downward trend; if the platforms, which increasingly dominate the market, are not taxed, ICA will be gradually depleted, and less and less Portuguese films will be produced. If filming in Portugal is already difficult, it will be even more so. With this cut on ICA funding, producers, distributors, exhibitors, festivals, film clubs, among others, will be deeply affected. Changing the Cinema Law is a historic opportunity to improve and strengthen ICA with more funding; instead of that, this proposal subjugates the national film production to the private streaming companies, leaving us completely dependent on them for funding, without a public and national alternative. As film students, we fear that more and more of our projects will remain on paper and that we will have even less job expectations and less opportunities to create freely. It is time to join the hundreds of Portuguese cinema professionals and fight together against the handover of the sovereignty of our national cinema to international corporations. We therefore call on all film students, cinema and art professionals, and everyone who wants to show solidarity with this struggle to join us in a gathering in front of the Parliament on Tuesday, at 8:30 am, to demand the repeal of this Law proposal. If we don’t do it now, we will lose our artistic freedom as well as the cultural identity of Portuguese cinema, which we cherish and want to preserve. There is no point in studying film if later we will be hindered from making it and forced to surrender to the criteria and taste policies of international corporations. The right to Culture is a constitutional right. We demand a public cultural policy, not a national culture regulated by private interests”.

Directors Pedro Costa Miguel Gomes Teresa Villaverde João Nicolau João Pedro Rodrigues João Salaviza Gabriel Abrantes Salomé Lamas Leonor Teles Diogo Costa Amarante Sandro Aguilar João Botelho Susana Sousa Dias Carlos Conceição Catarina Vasconcelos Cláudia Varejão Aya Koretzy Jorge Jácome Margarida Gil Maria de Medeiros Pedro Pinho Mariana Gaivão Marta Mateus

Producers Paulo Branco Luís Urbano Pedro Fernandes Duarte Filipa Reis Abel Ribeiro Chaves Maria João Mayer

Deadline's Tom Grater contributed to this post.


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