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Total production of fiction up in 5 European territories: Eurofiction '05

MUMBAI: On the occasion of Mipcom 2005, the European Audiovisual Observatory has released the latest figures on national television fiction broadcast in the five largest territories in Europe, as elaborated by the Eurofiction network. According to the report, the production volume has grown in Germany, the UK and Italy but declined in France and Spain.

The report also finds that contributions by private broadcasters are on the upward climb while public broadcasters' share is on a decline.

According to the report, the overall domestic fiction volumes have risen. The supply of first-run domestic drama (co-productions included) on the unencrypted television channels of the five largest European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom) has slightly increased in 2004 with regards to the previous year. And since in 2003 there was a relevant and generalized quantitative fall in the programming of local fiction across Europe, this means that the downward trend of the European television industry has been halted, if not substantially reversed, the report offers.

In actual fact, the total amount of 5513 hours broadcast by these five countries in 2004 marks an modest rise of just 133 hours (+ 2.5 per cent) in comparison with 2003.

According to the report, the downward trend seems to be halted and even reversed in some territories, but still continuing and even accelerating in others. Far from being homogeneous, the contemporary Eurofiction landscape is divided if not fractured into two main areas comprising Spain and France on the one hand, and Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany on the other.

The television industry in the first area is feeling the blow of arrested development. This is the case for Spain and France. Spanish fiction, which reached the peak of over 1300 hours in 2001, has consistently diminished year after year, falling to 932 hours in 2004 (minus 8,6 per cent compared with 2003, and minus 29 per cent compared with 2001).

What is more, it is the drama commissioned by the public channels, which turn out to be most affected by the downward trend (155 hours lost from 2003 to 2004). As for France, the ups and downs of the related figures from 2000 on don't disguise the substantial decrease, which, again in 2004, confirms French fiction as the "last in line" of European production, in terms of broadcast hours, states an official release.

The other territories are experiencing the thrust of renewed development. German fiction, although still remaining below the 1800 hours it was able to reach in 2000-2002, has pulled itself up from the decrease of the previous year thanks to an extra 50 hours. This has been made possible by the advent of domestically produced telenovelas, launched for the first time in 2004 by the public channel ZDF; given their success, the German telenovelas are destined to multiply, further boosting the fiction production of the strongest television industry in Europe.

Even more remarkable is the growth of Italian domestic drama, which increased by 85 hours (+13%) in 2004. Italy is the only country where all the quantity indicators (hours, titles, episodes) are on the increase, shortening the gap with the more established and mighty fiction factories of Germany and United Kingdom, and diverging by this progressive trend from the Spanish regression. Both Italy and Spain, almost starting from scratch, were the most dynamic television industries in Europe in the late nineties. Whereas Spain is weakening, Italy is still strengthening its production capacities, with the aim of achieving 1000 hours per year in the near future, the release adds.

In the UK there has been a rise of 100 hours in drama supply (+ 7%), mainly due to the new digital channels BBC3 and BBC4.

Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom are the only countries in which the public channels have increased their programming of home-grown fiction. Even though the public broadcasters remain the principle commissioners and providers of domestic drama in Europe the balance of the share has slightly shifted toward the private channels in 2004: local fiction broadcast by the latter increased by 158 hours (from 39 per cent in 2003 to 41 per cent in 2004), whereas the serious decreases in the volume broadcast by the Spanish channels and other minor decreases in the UK traditional public channels and in France, together with the growth in volume broadcast by the private channels, have lowered the share of the public broadcasters from 61 per cent to 59 per cent of the whole output.

Eurofiction is a research project sponsored by the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg and the Italian public broadcaster RAI. It is carried out by OFI (Italy), CSA (France), BFI (United Kingdom), UAB (Spain), University of Siegen (Germany), under the coordination of Fondazione Hypercampo (Italy).

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