The European Council is currently considering the adoption of a programme proposed by the European Commission that would strengthen and support the audiovisual industry in Europe. The programme, which would be entitled MEDIA Plus, would encourage the development, distribution and promotion of European audiovisual works within and without the European Community. MEDIA Plus would be an extension of the existing MEDIA II programme, and would run from 1 January 2001 to 31 December 2005. The main objectives will be: - an improvement in the competitiveness of the European audiovisual industry by supporting the development, distribution and promotion of audiovisual works, accounting for the development of new technologies; - respect for European cultural and linguistic diversity; - exploitation of European audiovisual heritage, particularly digitisation and networking; - development of the audiovisual sector in countries or regions with a low capacity for audiovisual production and or a restricted geographic and linguistic area; - building up a production and distribution sector, especially comprising SMEs. The budget proposed by the Commission for the implementation of the programme is 350 million euro. Beneficiaries of Community funding would receive no more than 50 per cent of the costs of operations. The programme would be open to the associated countries of Eastern and Central Europe, and to Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and EFTA countries which are parties to the EEA agreement. The opinion of the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee shall be sought prior to the decision of the Council.