HC Deb 23 November 1995 vol 267 cc283-4W
Mr. Whittingdale

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Culture Council held on 20 November. [2471]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The Council of the European Union on Audiovisual and Culture matters met formally on 20 November; the UK was represented by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Inglewood.

Agreement was reached between member states on the central elements of an amended version of the television without frontiers directive 1989. In particular, there was agreement satisfactory to the UK that there should be no strengthening of the current articles 4 and 5 on quotas and that a contact committee should be established along with a review after five years. Agreement was also secured on amendments to offer strengthened protection to minors and to clarify jurisdiction.

The Council confirmed its agreement to the MEDIA II training decision having taken into account the European Parliament's second reading amendments. Taken with the previous decision on the development and distribution elements of the MEDIA II programme, this will enable this five-year programme of support for the audiovisual industry to begin in 1996.

The Commission made a brief presentation on a proposed European audiovisual investment guarantee fund to promote cinema and television production.

The Council also discussed a draft common position on a proposal to establish the Raphael programme for European cultural heritage, but was unable to agree due to budgetary concerns. However, the Council was able to agree unanimously to adopt a resolution to encourage work on the promotion of statistics on culture and economic growth. The Council also heard a presentation from the Commission on the cross-border aspects of fixed book pricing systems.

It was agreed that the title of European City of Culture in the year 2000 should be shared by Avignon, Bologna, Prague, Cracow, Reykjavik, Brussels, Bergen, Santiago de Compostela and Helsinki. It was also decided that Valletta and Linz, both candidates to host the European Cultural Month in 1998, would be invited to share the title.