The Common Market Film Industry: Beyond Law and Economics
Don R. Le Duc
The European film industry was described by Konrad Bieberstein, West German minister of economics, as a "horse and buggy" business in competition with the automobile.1 Although this analogy is neither original nor completely accurate, it does suggest one explanation for the failure of Western European film companies to share in the general prosperity of the Common Market.2
Film remains a nationally oriented, nationally marketed commodity during an era when fundamental laws and economic policies of the Common Market are designed to encourage, if not compel, mass production and distribution across the entire European Economic Community. Despite the fact that nine nations of Western Europe have now combined economically to form a single market of 260 million people, filmmakers and distributors within these nations continue to operate as if the national trade barriers of the past remained firmly in place.
Why have European film companies been inclined to spurn this wider European Community market, content instead to remain sheltered within national law and nurtured through governmental grants? And more directly, how have Common Market film producers and distributors been able to avoid prosecution for violations of European Community laws which prohibit national subsidies or restrictions upon the flow of goods, services, labor, or capital among member states of the community?
The Common Market Cinema Industry Committee (CICCE) has responded to the economic question by contending that film, unlike other industries, cannot transcend cultural barriers and thus is incapable of benefitting from a combined market consisting of nine distinct nations with seven different major languages. Yet, as they make this argument,