The European Commission considers the Catalan Cinema Law discriminatory and illegal because it hinders the distribution of non-Spanish films in that region. Brussels has given Madrid two months to notify it that it has put an end to this discriminating legislation.
The law mandates that 50 percent of movies distributed in Catalonia be in Catalan, whether in original, dubbed or subtitled versions; an exception is made for movies in Castilian Spanish, which do not need to provide dubbing or subtitling. This in effect harms non-Spanish movies, which face an additional cost of 2,000 to 5,730 euros for subtitling and 25,000 to 77,000 euros for dubbing.
“You can encourage Catalan, but without harming other languages,” said Stefaan de Rynck, spokesman for the European Commission’s Internal Market department. “We want European movies to be distributed like Spanish movies in the Catalan market.”
A Commission release stated that “although the general objective pursued is completely legitimate, the obligation itself is incompatible with European law because it exempts Spanish films in their original Castilian version and is therefore discriminatory (towards non-Spanish films).”
The statement also noted that “the Court of Justice of the European Union has recognized that national policies pursuing the objective of language promotion are lawful, but [...] they must be proportionate in relation to the aim pursued and must not bring about discrimination against nationals of other Member States.”
Brussels admits that the Catalan law makes an exception for films with a distribution of fewer than 16 copies, but “more than half of non-Spanish European films distributed in Catalonia are still affected.”
Asked whether the problem would be solved if movies in Castilian Spanish were also forced to provide Catalan versions, the spokesman was unsure. “We would have to see what the Spanish Constitution and legislation say,” he said.
The Catalan Cinema Law was a long time in the making. The three-party government of Socialists and left-wing nationalists proposed it in 2006, but it was not approved until January 2010. Film industry multinationals threatened to reduce releases in the northeastern region in protest over the excess costs.