French minister of culture Christine Albanel has launched the "Arenes europeennes de l'independence" (European Arena Of Independence), a two-day conference session gathering European independent companies from the cultural field - mainly music, cinema and literature. The event will take place in Paris on Oct. 23 and 24.

"Creation is largely supported by independent companies," said Albanel, "which are largely impacted by online piracy." Albanel stressed that independent companies release 80% of new music records in France and generate 44% of the recorded market revenue and 67% of the industry jobs.

Albanel named several measures taken by her ministry during the past 18 months to support the recording industry, namely a €12 million ($15.7 million) tax-credit scheme allowing record companies to offset part of their investments on new records and a dedicated advance fund to help record companies borrow money.

"We need to go further," she added, in terms of financing and distribution. Albanel also reminded her audience about the importance of the EU to preserve fair market conditions and to rule on a more consistent VAT scheme for online cultural business.

The Arenes europeennes de l'independence is co-organized by European independent record companies body Impala. Its co-president Patrick Zelnik hoped the current global financial crisis would help independent companies get better recognition amongst the market.

"Only Vivendi-Universal can reach certain agreements with ISPs or mobile carriers, not even the other majors," he said. Although acknowledging some changes, Zelnik also said the European Commission was acting too slowly to support small cultural companies.

The event program features four panels gathering European politicians and representatives from different cultural fields, with a large share of French speakers and partners.

"We took advantage [of the fact that] France is currently presiding over Europe to stress the importance of the independent business," said Albanel, adding she hoped this event would influence others in Europe. France has the EU Presidency for the second half of 2008.

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