back to article Europe is spaffing €20bn on handouts for tech

Europe's dreams may be sinking like the Titanic, but wait: there’s €20bn of taxpayer’s cash swilling around for tech handouts. So we found at yesterday's Digital4EU shindig. “There’s a lot of money with a digital label on it – over €20bn,” said Luciana Tomozei, policy advisor at the European Investment Bank. This comes via …

  1. Steve K Silver badge
    WTF?

    WTF...?

    “Convergence is actually following a reverse trend.”

    WTF... - does that sentence actually mean "divergence"....?

    Steve

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF...?

      > WTF... - does that sentence actually mean "divergence"....?

      Perhaps you would have understood better had she said it in her native Romanian, or French, rather than in her third or fourth language?

      I appreciate that you personally may have perfect command of a good many languages, as indeed befits any educated person, but not everyone is that skilled.

  2. Bob Wheeler
    Coat

    Think of the Unicorns..

    "...dreamed of a land where unicorns can roam freely"

    Can I have what he's smoking?

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Think of the Unicorns..

      That's the trouble. By now someone is researching, courtesy of the EU, how much it would cost for us all to experience 'oneness with the unicorns'. €2Bn later we may well learn that since unicorns do not exist then we therefore can not achieve unicorneal utopia.

      This will be swiftly followed by a suggestion that all member states should allow techies access to EU-subsidised phenobarbiturates, given how they are now denied 'oneness with the unicorns' since unicorns do not exist.

      Going to stop now. My brain hurts.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the EU

    This is the EU. Welcome.

    This is the EU, welcome to the EU. You can do anything in the EU. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself.

    Welcome to the EU.

  4. TheOtherHobbes

    >Cultural industries, particularly in smaller EU members, have warned this will tilt the playing field towards bland and generic output

    No they haven't. Poland - hardly the most liberal of all the Euro economies - had a go. But there's no such thing as a consensus among the Euro cultural industries.

    It's dishonest to imply there is - especially with a link to another Reg piece by the same author, with the implication that it's some kind of authoritative overview, and not just another ranty op-ed.

    Some cultural imports from Europe, including dance music, apps, and movies, are not exactly rare in the UK.

    The removal of geoblocking by distributors is unlikely to make them less popular.

    In any case there's 20bn on the table, and it's utterly surreal to be arguing that this is a bad thing for the region's tech industries - especially when there's nothing even remotely similar being proposed in Westminster.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      @Hobbes

      Thanks for sharing!

      But you miss the point of the argument.

      "The removal of geoblocking...popularity"

      The films won't get made in the first place. Differential pricing is a prerequisite of getting the finance. That's just how capital works.

      Generic and bland products like Hollywood blockbusters or Mr Bean can be licensed on a pan European basis without these concerns.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Given that Hollywood (not in the EU, more like on its own planet) manages to launch movies worldwide on the same day, or a day more/day less for things like datelines and the local day-of-the-week that new films come out, is there any meaningful geo-locking anyway?

      DVD or Blu-Ray? EU countries are all in the same region anyway.

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    So the Commission is doing what the EU usually does when it doesn't get the answer it wants: it keeps asking the question, until EU citizens roll over and give in.

    This is a gross misrepresentation and does the argument no good. Yes, there is the odd potty project but the audits always show that the Commission is much less wasteful than national governments who love to use the EU to distribute subsidies (set aside premiums for farmland in Bavaria springs to mind),

    Its main job is ensuring the single market so this means keeping an eye on state aid, open skies, etc.

    As for the money € 20 bn is less than a third of what the ECB is currently giving to the banks every month!

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Auditors haven't signed off the EU accounts for almost 20 years. It's a very wasteful way of spending a pound. Or Mark. Or a Frank.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Auditors haven't signed off the EU accounts for almost 20 years.

        How does that compare with national government budgets? And who signs the latter? There is a history, in a least one country that I am aware of (France), of nominal audits which, when independently audited after much wrangling trying to get the government to actually allow it, were found to be rather lacking in rigour.

        So that point does look like a bit of a straw man, if I may say.

      2. IEFBR14

        AO > "Auditors haven't signed off the EU accounts for almost 20 years."

        Wrong.

        See here:

        http://www.britishinfluence.org/it_s_the_british_media_that_needs_auditing

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > http://www.britishinfluence.org/it_s_the_british_media_that_needs_auditing

          That is an interesting article.

          Andrew, would you care to explain on what you base your assertion that "Auditors haven't signed off the EU accounts for almost 20 years", please?

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Auditors haven't signed off the EU accounts for almost 20 years. It's a very wasteful way of spending a pound. Or Mark. Or a Frank.

        Facts, eh? Who needs them.

        Remember the budget spent by the body of the EU is tiny compared to the money, mainly pork, handed out to member states.

        As this is about the EIB it should be further noted that this is run by the member states and not the Commission. I'm not a fan of monetary policy being used for stimulus but it was Juncker's declared aim to use the EIB to finance projects in the absence of stimulus from member states. There was a fanciful plan of using EU money to encourage investment from private investors. I'm sure it will all end in tears. But this is more to do with the abrogation of responsibility by politicians in the hope that handouts from the ECB will mean they can continue to sit on their hands (France and Italy are particularly guilty here).

      4. David Pollard

        Accounts not signed off

        The last time I looked at this appalling state of affairs was when the Court of Auditors had not signed off the EU accounts for the tenth or twelfth consecutive year. Starting to check just now, for I really can't see that there has been any improvement in more recent times, the first thing that appeared was this:

        ""Based on our findings, we believe policy makers need to develop a wholly new approach to the management of EU spending and investment."

        http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/euauditinbrief-2014/Pages/euaditinbriefdefault.aspx

        Indeed, it seems to me what's needed is a wholly new approach to the EU as a whole.

      5. Dr_N Silver badge

        "Or Mark. Or a Frank."

        Who are these guys Mark & Frank?

        Are they the ones auditing the EU?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No, Mark's the guy running the EU. Frank used to think he ran it, but he's now realised that nobody's listening to him, and Mark's in charge.

  6. bell

    Not sure I get the cause and effect here

    Maybe I'm just very slow on the uptake but I could really use a step-by-step breakdown of how - and under what assumptions - the removal of geoblocking destroys the quality and variety of creative outputs and/or the industries producing them.

    Why would being able to delay release in other countries or discriminate between purchasing countries in pricing terms appeal to investors in these projects? Is there some preferential pricing for local buyers required for accessing government funding, ...?

    At what scale of required investment does this start to have an effect - Publishing a novel, producing and releasing a single, an album, a TV series, a three part motion picture epic with elves running on falling rocks?

    1. Smooth Newt
      Meh

      Re: Not sure I get the cause and effect here

      I am not sure how the removal of geoblocking will affect output variety, either. Dutch people alone will continue to choose to watch incomprehensable Dutch language films, and everyone else will continue to watch French language films for their high gratuitous sex content.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clarification

    I do not understand the apparently negative tone of the article.

    Much of what is discussed, such as the banning of geoblocking and cross-border roaming charges¹ concerns the effective implementation of the single market "pillar".

    The quip about Croatian poetry is again a bit of a straw man². Of more concern are practices such as Sky and others' attempts at segmenting the market by, e.g., blocking football league broadcasts² in certain EU regions while not in others, subject to various licensing agreements.

    As for the development of a viable start-up ecosystem which can compete with, and is independent of, Silicon Valley (so London partially discarded), that seems like a rather valid and important concern, beneficial not just to Europeans but to consumers worldwide. Whether handing out checks is the way to do it (if that is indeed what is being proposed, and all that is being proposed) or not, that is of course up for discussion, but establishing some credible competition and balance in the start-up arena is something that should be welcome by everyone, including Silicon Valley itself. At the same time, Europe has a vested in getting there before others (cough! China) do.

    By the way, Andrew, it appears that you forgot to set the moderation flag this time.

    ¹ There is a significant issue with this one, in that last time I read the proposal (I haven't checked its final version yet), there was a "fair use" clause that was so restrictive that effectively made the whole thing moot. I am pursuing this as my own scarce time allows, so if anyone else wants to join me in getting the EC to revise this, that'd be much welcome.

    ² Notwithstanding the Europe- and worldwide popularity of various continental and UK acts.

    ³ Apparently that counts as "cultural goods".

    1. LegalAlien

      Re: Clarification

      Well said. I for one welcome the end of rip-off EU cross-border mobile bills. And yes, your comment about content blocking drives is also well said. I welcome an end to that. As a Dutchman, living in the UK since 1990, not being able to (legally) view Dutch international football matches is very annoying (and I'd even be willing to pay, although I shouldn't have to). So, I get geo-blocked by Dutch TV channel NOS on their website, and have to use a Korean sopcast or similar, combined with a Dutch (out of sync radio broadcast). I can see services like iPlayer might get more viewers from abroad than the Dutch equivalent the other way around, but there has to be a sensible commercially attractive way to deal with that rather than just blanket blocking based on country, especially when we're supposed to have a single market.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clarification

        "There has to be a sensible commercially attractive way to deal with that rather than just blanket blocking based on country, especially when we're supposed to have a single market."

        Indeed there does - and there also has to be an acceptable way for consumers to watch//use content they've paid for in one EU state when travelling within the EU. The idea that the BBC can take licence fees with one hand and use the other to hold up a "stop" sign when you're travelling makes a joke of the single market idea, and yet they're allowed to do it by the lack of political will to tackle it. If you have a Netflix UK subscription why are they allowed to block you, as a UK subscriber, watching UK content? Easy, because the lazy content lawyers (i know some, about the least imaginative bunch you can think of - even MPs are more creative) are allowed to ignore single market goals in the name of "protecting creator's rights" (ie maximising revenue)

        Mr LegalAlien? If you had to register with the NOS site, and pay them a small amount for the fact that you're roaming (and possibly, have a generic VPN link to them for watching "their" content), would you do it?

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Clarification

      "I do not understand the apparently negative tone of the article."

      One reason is apparent to me: you don't understand how films and TV productions are financed and sold. Presales fund production, and the agreements typically use price discrimination across EU member states.

      We regularly mock luvvies (like Stephen Fry) who claim to know how technology works. Maybe we should do the same for techies who don't understand the economics of producing cultural goods - and don't want to learn.

      "By the way, Andrew, it appears that you forgot to set the moderation flag this time."

      I really ought to start selling tinfoil hats. It sounds like you need one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clarification

        > Maybe we should do the same for techies who don't understand the economics of producing cultural goods - and don't want to learn.

        Are you offering to write an article on the subject?

  8. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Eh, count me as dubious

    Hey, everyone loves tech startups and movies, but the fact is that Europe is not nearly a single market on a cultural or linguistic level, so people are not as likely to watch the average piece of cultural content made in some foreign country, versus a similar piece of content made at home.

    As for tech startups, I'm surprised that Europe hasn't thrown up a real competitor in the web/social media arenas. You'd think that with the earlier penetration of mobile phones there, you would have seen at least a real Snapchat or Twitter competitor. However, I don't see a lot of competitive openings in the social media space right now.

    Maybe the EU can buy Yahoo! for 20 billion Euros :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh, count me as dubious

      > people are not as likely to watch the average piece of cultural content made in some foreign country, versus a similar piece of content made at home.

      The vast majority of audiovisual content consumed in Europe comes from the US. This applies even in highly protectionist countries such as France, and in countries where English is not widely spoken or understood.

      So could you please explain that bit again?

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Eh, count me as dubious

        "The vast majority of audiovisual content consumed in Europe comes from the US."

        The opposite is true.

        But it's the internet, so you don't need verifiable facts to support your argument. Just make something up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Eh, count me as dubious

          > But it's the internet, so you don't need verifiable facts to support your argument. Just make something up

          So is that why you are not providing any references?

  9. TeeCee Gold badge
    Mushroom

    Er, tax.

    Having been there, seen it and done it, if the EU is in any way serious about tempting any sort of startup to dabble initially in cross-border work, they might want to look at tax.

    Not that I'm suggesting they harmonise tax rates, perish the thought. I'm just offering the idea that they might suggest to their various member countries that they actually follow the fucking rules laid down centrally for the application of VAT and duties (so that one set of algorithms with rate variations by country works everywhere in Europe) rather than the utter, steaming bag of chaotic shite that exists right now[1].

    Before anyone says anything, people living in glass houses should not chuck rocks around. This will mean the UK giving up its lovingly held VAT exemption on food and kids' clothing, causing outrage in the tabloid press and the fall of whichever government is in power at the time.....

    [1] Including an outwardly similar but internally very different bag of chaotic shite in Italy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Er, tax.

      > they might suggest to their various member countries that they actually follow the fucking rules laid down centrally for the application of VAT and duties

      Erm... but why are you complaining to us here? You do know that you can ring up the European Commission (0800 67891011), or contact them by a number of other means, including just turning up in Brussels, and make your concerns known?

      Do give it a try, they are a helpful bunch.

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > What - exactly - is wrong with the quoted text that you implicitly mock by the addition of the "[sic]s"?

    I am not going to answer for Orlowski, but my guess is that he views "roaming" as a present participle of the verb "to roam" in its traditional meaning, rather than as a participial adjective (with an elided noun such as "calls"), implying that the speaker intends to ban unsystematic travel rather than stop phone companies from gratuitously overcharging consumers for certain calls in violation of single market principles.

    As for "porting content", it may sound a bit affected or artificial when followed by "as you travel", and I speculate that it could have been influenced by the speaker's native Italian ("portare del contenuto quando viaggiate¹"), but grammatically there is nothing wrong with it that I can see.

    But I agree that, in general, his article begs the question. [sic]

    ¹ I hope any native Italian speakers in the audience will be more lenient than Mr Orlowski.

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Flame

    Que?

    What, does Lily Cole need another handout?

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