It's impossible to stress how quickly everything is changing in the creative and audio-visual industries. In 2019, when we complete our mandate, we will be looking back nostalgically at the new things that are exciting us today.
I was first elected to the European parliament in June 2009 and, in terms of how the landscape has changed, it might as well have been a lifetime ago. For example, in 2009 WhatsApp was founded; before the end of the parliament mandate it was ubiquitous, bought for a mind-boggling €15bn by Facebook. Netflix, in 2009 a mail DVD rental service operating in the US, is now not just streaming movies, it is making them, and accounting for a vast proportion of the internet traffic in the countries where it operates.
I make this point to stress that lawmakers are never going to be able to move as fast as the industry’s rate of development. So what we have to do is to create the right environment for the market, so that it can develop at the right speed and be competitive.
"Europe is still a long way behind the US, both in terms of innovation and in realising commercial potential"
Unfortunately, at the moment there are still too many barriers to entry and development. There is still a protectionist attitude towards cultural industries in some member states, in others the negotiation of rights is extremely complicated, and in most of Europe venture capital is not as easy to access as in America. As a result, while companies such as Sweden’s Spotify are thriving and becoming household names, and Dutch and British television companies have become masters at formatting successful and exportable programming, Europe is still a long way behind the US, both in terms of innovation and in realising commercial potential.
But I am optimistic. While it’s a disappointment for me, especially in my new role as ECR coordinator on the international trade committee, that the audio-visual sector will not be part of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, it’s clear that some member states have proven they can develop models that work and enable audio-visual entrepreneurs to succeed. So it’s important that we learn from best practice, and we don’t try to develop a European or one size-fits-all model. We have to develop intellectual property and copyright rules which enhance accessibility for consumers and maximise income for innovators and artists, and here I believe great progress is being made by the private sector to establish a system that works. Eventually, I hope that the creative industries in the more protectionist countries will see how much they have to gain by following suit.
The audio-visual sector in Europe has so much to offer and is constantly throwing up surprises, who would have predicted the world wide success of Danish miniseries such as The Killing and Borgen? We just have to make sure the environment is right for this to happen to ensure that the creative cycle continues to work, reward and inspire.