What is in the next EU Work Plan for Culture?

Council building in Brussels 18.2.2009 © European Union

On 29 November 2022, the Council of the EU adopted its resolution on the EU Work Plan for Culture 2023-2026. We had a look at what is particularly interesting for the audiovisual sector and its authors.

The Council acknowledges the “growing significance of EU values, including freedom of expression and creation” as well as “the contribution of the cultural and creative sectors to employment and the EU economy”. It also outlines that the plan is developed in the light of the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the accelerating pace of climate change, digitalization and the challenging “working conditions of artists, creators and other cultural professionals”.

The work plan is based on the principle that culture strengthens the European identity, that freedom of artistic expression and creativity are fundamental for innovation, and cultural diversity fosters understanding and promotes peace. It also points out that “culture makes a significant contribution to sustainable development, the economy and social inclusion”.

Among the priorities, we would like to highlight 3 important areas:

Status and working conditions of artists and cultural and creative professionals

  • With this first priority area, the plan recognizes that many artists, cultural and creative professionals often have “irregular and unpredictable income and combine several jobs to earn a living”. The aim is to improve their status and working conditions, including in the digital environment. The output will be an online platform to provide and exchange information and good practices in the EU countries with regards to improving their working conditions. Topics such as diversity, mobility and a gender perspective will also be considered. A conference on artistic freedom is also foreseen during the upcoming Swedish Presidency of the EU Council.

Screenwriters and directors are among the artists that were seriously impacted by the pandemic and still struggle to be economically and morally recognised and remunerated for their works. The SAA therefore welcomes this topic to be considered a top priority in the Council Work Plan for Culture and we will continue contributing to any consultation and action opportunities. Most recently, we made a contribution to the UNESCO consultation on the Status of the Artists.

Stimulate the digital transformation of the cultural and creative sectors”

  • This will be the subject of a possible conference during the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council in the first semester of 2024. Moreover, in the digital environment another priority will be to work on the discoverability of diverse European cultural content. This is about making European content not only available online, but also ensure that it is discoverable. The aim is to understand better the impact that content prioritisation practices, algorithm recommendations and curation strategies have on cultural and linguistic diversity and to find common solutions to increase the exposure of high-quality European content online.

Understanding the evolution of the audiovisual sector and the impact of its big players on audiovisual authors is a key priority - and a challenge - for the SAA. Algorithms and discoverability of European works on video-on-demand platforms is one of the issues. Others are the potential consequences the development of Artificial Intelligence, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), blockchain and Metaverse may have on authors’ rights and how they can become new fields of creation for audiovisual authors and of exploitation of their works. This will increasingly continue to be on our radar in the years to come.

Unleashing the power of culture

  • This is a headline that includes development of harmonised and comparable cultural statistics across the EU, covering gender equality aspects, the labour dimension, economic support for the sector, and cultural participation. The work will be carried out in discussion with Eurostat and EU countries statistical offices and build on the result of the 2022 pilot project “Measuring the cultural and creative sectors in Europe”.

The SAA collects annually key figures of our CMO members’ collections and distributions of royalties to the audiovisual authors to get an understanding of where authors’ rights are respected in Europe and when they receive remuneration and monitor the evolutions. As an example, our data proves that the royalties European authors receive for the exploitation of their works on streaming platforms are far from increasing at the same pace as this mode of exploitation. In terms of gender, our data correlates with the ones of the European Audiovisual Observatory, illustrating that women only represent about 30% of the European authors, a figure that has remained the same for many years. We therefore follow with great interest, and contribute where we can, to improve tools that harmonise statistics and better demonstrate the economic value of the sector.

We will continue to call on policy makers to prioritise culture and remind them about their commitments. Next year will be particularly important as it will be the last one before the European elections in 2024. Current decision makers must deliver on the promises they have made during their mandate, and new candidates will declare their intentions to the voters. Together with our allies we will support a Europe that defends authors and their rights and promotes its rich cultural diversity.  

A. Ryng