Media Summit on Brexit: ‘We stuffed it up’

Last night saw the launch event for Media Summits and its series on the Media and Brexit. In typically forthright form, the former Digital Economy and Culture Minister Ed Vaizey told an audience of top TV practitioners and professional advisors: “Sorry, we really stuffed it up for you.”

Vaizey said he hoped the current DCMS ministers would succeed in pushing the creative industries’ case up the Brexit negotiating agenda, but admitted the focus seemed more on manufacturing, farming and fishing so far. He did, however, reveal he had heard there may be a creative industries White Paper in preparation taking account of some of the likely consequences of Brexit and this, at least, would mean the issue would become a focus. “In my view, it’s very important for the media ecosystem in the UK,” he said.

The other panellists at the Ham Yard Hotel in London’s West End also struggled to find the positives. Dawn McCarthy-Simpson MBE, Director of International Strategy for PACT, the independent producers’ alliance, said the negative impact was already being felt by members as uncertainty on both sides affected co-production and commissioning procedures with EU broadcasters and producing partners. She pointed out that while post–Brexit tax breaks might help keep up the momentum of the already thriving UK production sector, it could damage exports and co-productions as tax breaks may be deemed unfair subsidies by the EU.

Adam Minns, Executive Director of COBA, the association for commercial broadcasters based in the UK, including Sky, Disney and Discovery, warned there was the very real prospect of many of his members having to move all, or large parts of their operations to the European continent. He said that unless specific arrangements were made for Ofcom licences to be recognised everywhere that they are now (through EU member ‘passporting’ of broadcast regulation), then international broadcasters based in the UK would have no option but to relocate. He said time was running out and he forecast the companies would be making decisions well within the first half of next year. Minns and McCarthy-Simpson agreed that simply ‘door-stepping’ in Europe –setting up a satellite office with a skeleton staff – would not work with European regulation stipulating that a ‘substantial’ presence was the minimum requirement.

Media Summits www.mediasummits.com will be holding a series of Brexit events through 2018-19 examining the many questions the UK’s withdrawal process poses for the digital media sector. Last night’s event was sponsored by TVT who presented their in-depth research on the European VoD business.

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