In the 1990s, the European Union launched its MEDIA programme with the goal of improving the chances of European films, which are at a disadvantage in segregated domestic markets, against competition from the big Hollywood productions. The programme encourages the development of the European film industry, vocational training and the distribution of European films. Thanks to MEDIA, it is easier for independent European filmmakers to develop new films and to find partners and audiences beyond national borders. The programme also provides opportunities for professionals in the industry to take part in vocational and advanced training programmes.
MEDIA has since become a brand with many award-winning films at Cannes, Berlin and in Hollywood. In 2017, around twenty films that were selected for the Cannes Film Festival had benefitted from the MEDIA programme’s support. Ten films were nominated for an Oscar, amongst which 'Toni Erdmann' and 'Ma vie de Courgette' by Swiss director Claude Barras. Both belonged to the category of best animated films. The latter film was supported by MEDIA in 2014.
Switzerland participated fully in the MEDIA programme between 2006 and 2013. The programme helped strengthen Swiss cinema internationally and gave Swiss films a better chance of being shown abroad and benefitting from a wider audience and increased commercial potential. This participation also guaranteed Swiss filmmakers access to the same funding and promotional assistance, continued education and training and professional networks as their counterparts in the EU member states, particularly in the domain of distribution and coproduction of the films on a European level. The programme’s main strength was the distribution sector. The Swiss public discovered up to 300 films per year from all over Europe. Several Swiss festivals benefitted from promotion assistance within the programme, such as the Fantoche International Animation Film Festival in Baden and the Visions du Réel Festival in Nyon.
Participation in the MEDIA chapter of the ‘Creative Europe’ framework programme
Since 2014, the MEDIA programme has been integrated into the 'Creative Europe' framework programme. For the period of 2014-2020, MEDIA has approximately 819 million euros at his disposal.
'Creative Europe' includes the 'Culture' sub-programme, which aims to defend cultural diversity and enhance cultural heritage. In this respect, Switzerland has never participated in the 'Culture' sub-programme, but the Federal Council did propose to start negotiations on participation based on a positive evaluation of the opportunities it offered to Switzerland.
After a temporary stalemate that was triggered by the vote of 9 February 2014, negotiations for a bilateral agreement that would allow Switzerland to participate in 'Creative Europe' resumed in May 2014. Switzerland was committed to concluding an agreement with the European Union on participation in the «MEDIA» chapter of this programme (2014-2020), but this objective could not be achieved. The negotiations between Switzerland and the EU were linked to the adoption of European legislation (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) and the conclusion of negotiations on an institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU. Consequently, Switzerland or Swiss cultural institutions are not able to participate in projects, nor can they get financial support from the 'Creative Europe' programme, which will expire at the end of 2020. In the meantime, the European Commission has proposed a new draft programme ‘Creative Europe’ for the period 2021-2027. This draft is in the process of being adopted within the European institutions. Switzerland will consider participating in this new programme.
To fill the gap of the MEDIA programme, Switzerland has adopted compensatory measures to make sure that ongoing projects are pursued and that Switzerland might be reintegrated into the MEDIA programme. A reintegration remains the priority, given that some important aspects enabled by a participation in MEDIA - such as access to international networks - cannot be otherwise compensated.