News / Economy

Cultural Exception a Sticking Point in Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks

French actress Berenice Bejo, right, and Belgian director Lucas Belvaux address the media at the European parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, June 11, 2013, after their meeting with EU officials asking that audiovisual services be kept off the table during upcoming EU-US free-trade negotiations.
French actress Berenice Bejo, right, and Belgian director Lucas Belvaux address the media at the European parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, June 11, 2013, after their meeting with EU officials asking that audiovisual services be kept off the table during upcoming EU-US free-trade negotiations.
Lisa Bryant
Negotiations get under way Monday between Washington and Europe to strike the world's largest free trade agreement. While talks are shadowed by European anger at the U.S. Prism surveillance program, there are plenty of other potential roadblocks, including France's demand for a "cultural exception" protecting Europe's movie, television and online entertainment sector. 

A summer evening in eastern Paris. People are out picnicking and playing the traditional French game of boules and buying tickets for an evening show at the local cinema. The current lineup includes several new French movies.

But Morelle and Xavier Dupuis have other plans.

Superman: Man of Steel is the couple's hands-down choice. The two are in their 30s, and Morelle Dupuis said they grew up with Superman -- he's their hero.

French film The Artist may have swept Hollywood's Academy Awards last year, but across Europe, American movies, radio and TV programs are dominating the airwaves and movie theaters.

Even in France, which sets quota requirements favoring French productions, some of the most popular movies and television shows are produced by Hollywood.

Now, as trade talks get under way between the European Union and Washington for a massive free trade agreement, France's insistence for a "cultural exception" may prove a key sticking point.

Not surprisingly, the battle for cultural exception has galvanized Europe's movie industry. The Artist star Berenice Bejo made a passionate defense of it at the European Parliament.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
x
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2013.
'Reactionary' remark

But the cultural clause has even proved controversial in Europe. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, for one, has criticized as "reactionary" those in France who are against globalization.

Barroso did not specifically mention the French government, and later he said that culture should be accorded specific treatment in the trade talks.

But in an interview with French media, Barroso said that a resounding majority of EU member states supported the commission's position not to exclude any particular category ahead of the trade talks.

Nonetheless, outrage at Barroso's "reactionary" remark has resounded across France's political landscape, from far right leader Marine Le Pen to Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Addressing French parliament, Ayrault said championing cultural exception was not reactionary. To the contrary, it was a necessary affirmation of the world's cultural diversity, which even Barroso must accept.

But as far as French analyst Philippe Moreau Defarges is concerned, the campaign for cultural exception has already been defeated.

"You must look at the screens in Paris - so many American movies. It's clear that Hollywood is present everywhere. And cultural exception will not change that," he said.

Still, the Dupuis, for one, believe there should be a cultural exception clause in the talks - despite their differences over the quality of French cinema.

The couple said that such an exception would allow young French actors to emerge and flourish.

Another movie goer, Helene Bugaut, agreed.

Bugaut said the government was right to help French production, since the world was dominated by English speakers. She said she watched lots of French movies.

But not tonight. Like the Dupuis, Bugaut has bought a ticket for Superman.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8930
JPY
USD
117.98
GBP
USD
0.6673
CAD
USD
1.2445
INR
USD
61.498

Rates may not be current.