Call us: +32 2 566 90 00 Email: [email protected]

Corona & Media and Entertainment

MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE COVID-19 ERA - PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS FOR WHAT’S NEXT

The free access to hundreds of films and tv-series on different supports - television or platforms - that helped citizens entertain themselves during their confinement, was closely followed in France by sanctions from the French regulatory authority[1]. Unlimited access to such content was in fact subject to significantly altering the equilibrium between different stakeholders such as broadcasters and right holders, as much as the media chronology that was already fragile.  

On March 24, our French-speaking regulatory authority (CSA) announced the first adaptation measures for all editors[2]:

  • Applications for sample programs are suspended during the confinement;
  • Deadlines for the submission of the 2019 annual reports will be extended at the request of editors, under reasonable justification;
  • During the audits of the 2020 financial year, the CSA will take into account the impact of changes to the program grid due to the circumstances of the crisis on the legal obligations of publishers.

A survey was also launched on 15 April by the CSA among all its regulated entities to assess the impact of the current crisis on their activities after 5 weeks of confinement[3].

In the meantime, general guidelines taken by different stakeholders have allowed the audiovisual sector to adapt and reinvent itself. You will find in this article some of the latest news.

Financial support

Many organisations have put together procedures to help different businesses in these exceptional times. More flexibility, time extensions, payment postponements and exemptions: you can easily address such organisations to seek help.

Among these, the Federal Public Service for Finances stated on March 13 that the 18-month period (24-months for animation) to be eligible for Tax Shelter Support will be extended for another 6 months-period. The government of Wallonia created an extraordinary fund of 223 million euros to support businesses and free-lancers that are heavily impacted by the crisis and an emergency loan (St'art Cultural Enterprise Investment Fund) for the cultural and creative enterprises involved in the creation, production and dissemination of goods and services with a cultural, artistic and/or heritage content[4]. The “Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds” (VAF) has also issued a statement on financial measures that will be taken in order to help projects[5]. The Centre du Cinéma (French community) and Screen Brussels (FWB) have announced that they will adopt more flexibility regarding project submissions.

Sports

While major sportive events were postponed or cancelled (such as Roland Garros, the NBA season, the 2020 Euro or the Olympics Games), the e-gaming industry has seized the opportunity to grow stronger. The NBA was the first championship to morph into an e-competition, as famous players challenged themselves virtually. The Eurosport tv-channel has also captured the rights to broadcast the Automobile Sports Competition “Simracing” where gamers and professional pilots competed. On April 4th, VRT Een broadcasted for the first time a virtual edition of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, where cyclists challenged themselves online.

Our Prime Minister announced on April 15 that all mass events would not be permitted until at least August 31st. At present it remains unclear what the consequences will be for the organisation of the various sports competitions.

Education

The media has reinforced its educational aspect as all the schools of the country were forced to close.  The RTBF launched in collaboration with the Fédération-Wallonie-Bruxelles a ‘3 times a week 20 minutes format’ for children, in which they can review mathematics, French and science classes. Catalogues of linear-television programs have been disrupted, and broadcasters have had to adapt quickly. In addition, as kids are now more keen to face screens on a 24/7 basis, this exceptional time is also an opportunity for the audiovisual sector to really enforce, the newest Audiovisual Media Services Directive obligations related to the protection of minors (subject to Belgian implementation as we speak).

Information

The ERGA (European Regulatory Group for Audiovisual Media Services) communicated a press release in order to draw the attention of the European Commission, on the importance of the media during this exceptional crisis[6]. Professional journalists must be supported, as they are key to offer proper media coverage and information of quality. Adequate communication methods are as important as they guarantee content access. The Infodemia (the spread of false information related to the Coronavirus) must be contained, and the ERGA has come forward by announcing that special work groups will start focusing immediately, on the economic impact of the crisis on the audiovisual sector in Member States.

On March 24, the CSA recalled the importance of continuing to provide accurate and responsible local information, which is essential to prevent the spread of fake news. In this context, still according to the CSA, the accessibility of information programs must be a priority as it allows everyone to understand public health issues. The local media are also essential to overcome the isolation of citizens, since they help to maintain cohesion and social ties.

Advertisement

The JEP (Jury d’Ethique Publicitaire) relaxed its complaints procedure for non-urgent cases and made a series of specific recommendations for the sector:

  • Avoid irrelevant references to the coronavirus crisis;
  • Pay particular attention to the current circumstances;
  • Do not play on feelings of fear in any way;
  • Do not make any express or implied statements about the specific efficiency of a product in preventing or controlling coronavirus.

While television audiences are booming during the COVID-19 crisis, the advertising industry has curiously not been doing so great. The advertising agencies intend to support the sector. ‘IP’ has for example extended campaigns scheduling periods until August 21st, and has put together a ‘Spring 2020 Boost Offer’ in order to support brands that are already present in video and radio at IP (a 15% cost-free space is provided).

Entertainment

While all cinemas were forced to shut down until further notice, movies ‘made in Belgium’ were authorized to ‘skip’ legal time lapses in order to directly penetrate non-linear catalogues. LeCinémaBelgeALaMaison - an initiative provided by the Centre Du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel from the FWB - enables you to easily find out where to watch the latest Belgian movies that were supposed to be released in cinemas only[7].

While stakeholders of the industry seem to be putting together support and solidarity measures, the impact of the crisis cannot be ignored.  

If we can help you during this very unexpected period do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Willem-Jan Cosemans                                                                                                                      Agnès Maqua

[email protected]                                                                                                                                       [email protected]

Charlotte Beeckmans

[email protected]

With the collaboration of Alice Portnoy. 

 

[1]Communication of the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel français, March 20, 2020.

[2]More info under: https://www.csa.be/102009/le-csa-allege-les-obligations-administratives-des-editeurs/.

[3]More info under: https://www.csa.be/101876/le-csa-enquete-sur-limpact-de-la-crise-aupres-du-secteur-audiovisuel/.

[4]More info under: http://www.culture.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&g=0&hash=c9028d0bcefbd6d77eb387b69693abdd5d49ef38&file=fileadmin/sites/

culture/upload/culture_super_editor/

culture_editor/documents/covid19/20200326_MesuresCovid19_GouvernementFWB.pdf

[5]More info under: https://www.vaf.be/nieuws/coronamaatregelen-projecten-creatie-vaffilmfonds-vafmediafonds-en-vafgamefonds

[6] ERGA Press release, ‘European regulatory authorities draw the attention of the European Commission on the crucial importance of medias in times of crisis’, April 6, 2020.

[7] Check out all the catalog under this link http://lecinemabelgealamaison.be.