There is no definition of the “cultural industries” in Albania. Given the production and consumption levels, one could not define any cultural activity in Albania as a “cultural industry”. The only “cultural industry” is the piracy of film, drama and pop music!
Neither academic institutions, nor other institutions offer courses for culture industry professionals.
The first Internet connection in Albania was in 1995 and provided through a UNDP server which was installed for use by both governmental and non-governmental organisations. This collaboration provided university departments with email and Internet access. In 1997, the government started the Internet programme. At the beginning of 1999, over 500 terminals were estimated to be permanently on-line (access granted by the Telecom company) which also assists in providing independent newspapers and radio stations with web pages and email access. The Internet is of special importance for publishers as well as for researchers and students who could potentially participate in Open Distance Learning programmes.
Today, there are a dozen commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in business and Albanian Telecom has provided all subscribers with dial-up access to the Internet. The government is putting pressure on the company to apply cheaper tariffs for this service. Some ISPs also offer access to cable TV. However, no progress can be reported as regards information society services. Although a National Strategy on Information Society was approved on 27 June 2003, the legislation on electronic commerce, electronic signatures and conditional access has still to be adopted. Overall, preparations in the area of information society are at an early stage.
Recently, ISPs are offering mixed packages, with the most typical one being the 3 in 1 type: ADSL+2 cable for Internet, phone and digital TV, whether in partnership with any Albanian digital TV or not. Many internet users see it as a simple way to get a variety of TV programmes without having to buy and install a digital satellite receiver.
There are four mobile communication companies operating in Albania and all offer access to mobile internet. In November 2010, the government called for bids for the exclusive licence of 3G service, which was won by Vodafone Albania. The company paid EUR 31 million for the licence.
The political and economic crisis in the early 90’s seriously threatened the survival of Albanian cinema. The state-owned film studio “New Albania” was divided into 3 separate state companies and production fell dramatically to as little as 2 films per year, as state financing was no longer available. Alba Film Distribution went bankrupt and lost control over the network of cinemas. Dhimitër Anagnosti, who became Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1992 and who is a renowned Albanian film director, appointed a working group for the compilation of a draft Law on Cinema, which was passed in 1996. This Law and the newly created government-run National Film Centre (NFC) finances film production in Albania. The NCC was created in 1997 to turn Albanian film production into a competitive system adapted to the free market economy.
The Centre grants project funding through three Boards, dedicated to feature films, animation and documentaries. In 2005, the Law on Cinema was amended to allow film artists’ associations to elect all Board members. There are no members appointed by any government or parliamentarian institution and the NFC Director, who is appointed by the Prime Minister, has no say in Board decisions. Every Board decision is final and includes the funding level for each project.
The purpose of the NFC is to support, through governmental financing, the creation of new Albanian films. Given the limited financial means for NFC, co-productions are the only alternative for Albanian cinema at the moment. The four artistic films realised these last years are co-productions with French, Italian, Russian, Hungarian and Polish companies, while the services offered to the foreign producers have been few and not very profitable. The documentaries (7-8 films in a year) are mainly co-productions with Albanian state TV.
Despite these activities, the state of the film industry in Albania may still be considered as critical. Its film production companies are financially weak and are fighting to find partners for their projects. The film industry, in general, suffers from outdated technology and an insufficient infrastructure for distribution. The number of cinemas has fallen from 65 in 1991 to 5 in 2010.
Today, there is only one distribution company, which runs all 5 remaining cinema theatres.
International Distribution for Albania (IDA sh.a) is currently the only film distribution company in Albania. The goal of IDA is to provide a network of cinemas which will provide quality entertainment .Till now IDA has established Cinemas Millennium 2 in Tirana, Cinema Millennium in Elbasan Korce, Sarandë and Shkodra. Actually they are working on the construction of Cinemas in Fier and Vlora. All these cinemas are very modern with the latest projection and sound equipment produced by Kinoton which is the best producer of cinema’s equipment all over Europe, including Digital Dolby Surround Sound. The salon has been wrapped in the best acoustical material to ensure no distraction from the outside world. Cinemas Millennium brings to Albanian public the biggest and newest titles from the famous studious. Additionally to this company is operating the Network of the Imperial Cinema. They are made up of two Imperial Cinema (I, II) situated inside the area of Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Tirana with a capacity of 100 seats and another summer cinema, so-called Imperial Cinema III placed in the open air amphitheatre of the Academy of Fine Arts at the capital of Albania. It has a capacity for about 500 seats. All three cinemas provide about 36 artistic movies per year according to the contracts signed with prominent film-making companies.
The list of international film festivals include TIFF (Tirana International Film Festival, established in 2003) which offers competitive and non-competitive programmes for short films, animation and videos; Durrës International Film Summerfest (est. 2008), which offers specific programmes for international and Balkans feature films. 2010 marked the establishment of two new festivals: Anifest Rozafa in Shkodër (with programmes of animation and films for children) and the First Step International Film Festival in Tirana, dedicated to student and first time directors.
The last National Film Festival was held in 2006 in Tirana and sources from the National Film Centre say there is no need for another edition since the Durrës International Film Summerfest by default accepts all Albanian movies produced within the preceding year.
A new development is the introduction of private TV broadcasters in film production. They started with TV series, following the example of the state-owned TVSH. The launch of the second platform of digital television in 2008 (Tring TV, an affiliate of the national terrestrial Vizion Plus) was a major challenge to the first one, Digitalb (a brainchild and originally a subsidiary of Top Channel TV), first established in early 2005. Now the two are competing in genres like TV series, sitcom, TV drama, though Digitalb is still leading in short films and has already produced its first feature TV film.
The Albanian press is still dominated by political conflicts and is more an extension of the political debate than of public opinion. Contrary to the lack of development in the print media, both radio and television broadcasting media have been growing very fast. In 1991 there was only one broadcaster, the state TVSH, with a daily programme of 4-5 hours. In 1993 and 1994, two private local broadcasters (TV Shijak and Alba TV) went on air and that triggered a debate on whether private stations should be allowed or banned, while there was no legal framework related to private broadcasting. A Private Broadcasting Law was issued in March 1997 which allows private radio stations to operate. A new draft Broadcasting Law was adopted in the spring of 1998 with a similar mission. Since then, the number of private TV broadcasters has been constantly rising. In the early 2000’s TV Klan launched the first satellite platform, Sat Plus.
As of November 2010, the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRT), had licensed 2 national terrestrial TV broadcasters, another 69 local terrestrial broadcasters, 50 cable broadcasters and 2 satellite broadcasters, not including the national state-owned TVSH, which has recently opened a second channel, mainly dedicated to live sporting events and also operates as a satellite broadcaster. The NCRT has also licensed 2 national radio broadcasters and 48 local broadcasters, again not including the state-owned Radio Tirana 1 and 2 and International. These figures show much but not the whole picture. Since the Law applies only geographical criteria for the qualification of a given broadcaster, many operators apply for a local licence, so that they have to pay less, while they cover an area slightly smaller than 1/3 of country’s territory, but serve more than 2/3 of the population. It is bizarre that Digitalb, the country’s most powerful media operator, is not on the list. This digital platform offers 12 basic programmes, two additional packs of a dozen programmes each for film and sports, plus pay-per-view and four HD programmes.
In addition to some progress in the area of audiovisual policy, the National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT) and its human and financial resources remain limited given its tasks, particularly as regards fighting copyright piracy and monitoring broadcasters. NCRT has yet to Draft a Strategy for the Development of the Radio and Television Sector and an up-to-date plan to regulate analogue and digital frequencies. The alignment of the Broadcasting Law with the European Convention on Trans-frontier Television and the Television without Frontiers Directive remains to be achieved.