28th Sep 2018

There is much ado around the UK and Europe at the moment surrounding the possibility that the UK may face a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit exit from the EU. In the media and creative technologies sector, it is already widely assumed that Brexit will introduce significant challenges for broadcasting, but according to speakers at a London Brexit strategies summit earlier this summer, the prospects could be pretty bleak.

The general industry consensus is echoed in many other sectors of the UK economy, and the suspense is creating more tension. Many broadcasting, media and entertainment companies are reluctant to sit on their hands and wait it out, and speakers are saying that the creative industry needs to be formally recognised by the government negotiators, and their voices heard.

During the event, speakers including Vince Cable, the UKs Lib-Dem leader, and a representative of the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) voiced the concerns surrounding the loss of access to EU markets, which has been predicted could cost the industry as much as £1billion in investment alone. The COBA executive director, Adam Minns, said that there is a ‘real clock ticking,’ and made the shocking announcement that as many as 650 channels are considering a move or a restructure of their operations within Europe. With an estimated 6-9-month turnaround time for shifting operations, it seems clear that things will start happening soon if there is no negotiating room.

Mr Cable noted that the creative industries contribution is as much as 5% of the UK economy, but ironically receive little press, which Mr Cable joked was ‘partly because the media is poor at covering itself.’

Could a no-trade deal could lead to channel losses?

The system of international broadcasting is complex, and currently under EU regulation, the UK holds firm its goal of becoming Europe’s leading broadcasting hub. If the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place for creative industries, then UK licensing may no longer be recognised outside the UK. This will leave international broadcasters based in the UK no choice but to restructure and relocate.

This is because the Country of Origin (COO) part of the European Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) remains uncertain following a no-deal Brexit. The AVMSC guidelines are subject to the rules and regulations of the single European market, and governs legislation across the EU of audio-visual media, traditional TV broadcasting and on-demand streaming. Also, AVMSC rules are in place to protect consumers, preserve cultural diversity and to safeguard against the spread of hate via anti-religion or racial groups. In addition, they are guidelines to shape the future of creative industries and to make a clearer path for the emergence of creative media.

Businesses already making plans to move

Amongst the first to make a move out of the UK is the Discovery Channel, who earlier this year announced its intention to close its West London European business base to relocate in another EU country. One of the possible new hubs for media and creative could become Amsterdam, where Netflix and other broadcasters are currently based. Eurosport, which is owned by Discovery, currently has its base in Paris.

Interestingly, and worrying for the industry, there are 35 channels, including Netflix, that currently broadcast transmissions to viewers in the UK but are licenced outside the UK in EU countries. If banded outside EU quotas, broadcasts to the UK could possibly face significant limits. Another blow to the British public could be access to mobile creative media content while travelling outside the UK. Currently subscription content is available across the EU according to Digital Single Market regulations.

The summit discussed the current state of negotiations around Brexit and pledged to call for flexibility after 29th March 2019 to allow the industry to continue to broadcast and employ EU talent without significant restriction in the movement of people and distribution of content if the UK is to remain a contender within Europe for international broadcast.

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