The UK industry body for digital, cable and satellite broadcasters and on-demand services has warned that TV firms may have to move some operations abroad if there is no Brexit trade deal.
Speaking to the BBC, Adam Minns, executive director of Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) said that thousands of jobs could potentially be at stake in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit, where the UK leaves the EU with no formal trade agreement.
Thanks to the country of origin principle, hundreds of international media organisations based in the UK can broadcast to anywhere in the EU.
According to COBA, the lack of a trade deal would jeopardise the UK’s status as Europe’s leading international broadcasting hub.
“International broadcasters based here would, reluctantly, be forced to restructure their European operations,” Minns contended. “No deal would put at risk thousands of jobs in the UK broadcasting sector, hundreds of millions of pounds of investment every year, and would undermine the sector’s long-term global competitiveness.”
“Like many sectors, broadcasters cannot wait until the cliff edge of March 2019 to make decisions about the future of their European businesses,” he concluded.
Responding to a parliamentary question in September 2017, Matt Hancock, Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The UK is currently the EU’s biggest broadcasting hub, and the sector makes an important contribution to our thriving creative industries. During our negotiations with the EU we will work to get the right deal for broadcasters and will support their continued growth in the UK.”
According to COBA, the UK is home to more television channels than any other EU country (1,100 channels are licensed by Ofcom, compared to the UK’s closest rival France with 400). Crucially, more than half of these channels broadcast not to the UK, but to overseas countries.
EU broadcasting revenues are worth £67 billion (€76bn) a year, representing around 25 per cent of the global broadcasting market of £244 billion.
The UK multichannel sector is worth an estimated £4.2 billion in GVA per year to the UK economy, with purely non-domestic channels representing an estimated £800 million per year within that. The sector employs around 9,000 people, with purely international channels accounting for around 1,600 people directly.
In addition, they support UK post production, playout facilities and other technical services required to get a channel on air. And they contribute to the critical mass of the UK television sector, helping make it a truly world-class centre for broadcasting.
Under current broadcasting the UK regulator Ofcom grants a broadcasting licence which, under EU law, must be recognised by any other EU Member State. Were the UK to leave the EU, this recognition would no longer be granted – at least on a comparable basis – without securing access through an alternative arrangements.
“Given that EU rules require a broadcaster to make editorial decisions and have a significant part of its workforce in the country where it is licensed, broadcasters could not simply take a licence in another country without restructuring their European businesses in order to obtain a licence to broadcast from a remaining EU country,” COBA advises.
Minns is one of the guests at the Media Summits launch event on November 21, where the changing relationship between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe will be considered, addressing the implications for media production, distribution, advertising, technology, talent and investment.