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EDN issue open letter on the future of Lichtpunt

16.12.2014

In the name of several international professional organisations, EDN Director Paul Pauwels has issued an open letter to Mr. Sven Gatz, Flemish Minister for Culture, Media, Youth and Brussels Affairs in relation to the future of the Belgium broadcasting association Lichtpunt.

To

Mr. Sven Gatz, Flemish Minister for Culture, Media, Youth and Brussels Affairs Koolstraat 35 1000 Brussel

OPEN LETTER

Your Excellency,

Subject: Lichtpunt 

With this open letter, EDN and the international organisations listed at the end of this document want to express their great concern after having been informed that the future of the broadcasting association "Lichtpunt" is being threatened. Apparently, the Flemish Government has the intention not only to reduce the Lichtpunt working budget for 2015, but also to abolish all activities of Lichtpunt from 2016 onward.

It might seem odd to you that professional associations of filmmakers outside of Flanders care so much about the future of this small broadcasting organisation. The reason is that Lichtpunt cares about documentary filmmaking and is very important for all of us.

For more than a decade, Lichtpunt has been a highly respected participant in the professional documentary forums around Europe. Since 2007, Wim Van Rompaey, commissioning editor for Lichtpunt, has been - and still is - the ONLY representative of the Flemish broadcasting industry at the international documentary markets.

Wim Van Rompaey takes his role as a commissioning editor very seriously. With the modest resources at his disposal, he invests broadcast funding into documentary projects. Doing so in the early stage of (pre)-production, his engagement is recognized as very 'brave' behaviour. For many young filmmakers and their will-full and meaningful film projects, the Lichtpunt involvement has often been an essential support for the difficult development process from project to finished film.

Lichtpunt has supported and broadcasted a wide variety of documentary films, from all parts of the world, and of course also films 'made in Belgium'. Many of the films became award-winners at international festivals, and have been broadcasted around the world. These films covered a variety of themes, inciting audiences to reflect and providing unorthodox views on important social issues.

Through its supporting presence at the international forums, Lichtpunt has been the ONLY broadcaster advocating for Flemish documentary films on the international market. Backing or promoting many projects from Flanders, Lichtpunt has been providing them their entry ticket to pitching forums and added credibility towards other European financing partners. Lichtpunt also broadcasted short films of the "Why Poverty" project, a widely spread and much appreciated initiative by the BBC and DR.

The elimination of Lichtpunt would mean that one of the most open-minded broadcasters would disappear, leaving the documentary film market more and more in the hands of risk-avoiding, narrow-focusing broadcasters, seeking mainly for local content or pure entertainment value.

I hope you appreciate the concern and worry that the potential disappearance of Lichtpunt provokes within the international documentary community. These feelings of concern and worry are even more outspoken for our Flemish colleagues /documentary filmmakers.

At the Lichtpunt website, we read in their mission statement: "Above all Lichtpunt attempts to approach our television viewers as being open minded and outspoken adults. Special attention is given to situations where frankness and freedom is being limited."

It would be a shame to limit the frankness and freedom of Lichtpunt, whose uniqueness is a true enrichment to European documentary film culture.

We appeal to the Flemish Government to relinquish its intention to cut financial resources awarded to Lichtpunt, or worse even, to withdraw the broadcasting license. 

Respectfully, 

Paul Pauwels, Director EDN