The Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) – the voice for commercial broadcasters in the UK – has stressed the need for urgent clarity on whether a transition period will happen following the Government’s Chequers meeting over the weekend.
COBA reserves judgement on the Government long-term plan for broadcasting until the expected White Paper is published this week, although it welcomes comments on Friday by the Culture Minister, Margot James, that the Government understands “the importance of broadcast licensing arrangements for the sector” and is “seeking to strike a bespoke deal with the EU which would allow for mutual recognition of cross-border broadcasting post EU Exit”.
However, the urgent issue now for broadcasters is whether a transition period will happen once the UK leaves. Like many sectors, international broadcasting cannot wait until the March 2019 ‘cliff edge’ to undertake any restructuring that may be necessary as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Businesses need several months to put contingency plans into place, as this may involve significant changes to their operations.
“Without more certainty over whether the transition period will take place, we are certainly concerned that broadcasters will have to reluctantly start restructuring within the next few months, and possibly within weeks for some companies,” stated Adam Minns, COBA’s Executive Director. “The UK has a leadership position as Europe’s international broadcasting hub for good reason – no one wants to have to restructure their businesses. But if these changes have to be made, companies will be forced to start the process well in advance of the cliff edge so they have sufficient time to manage the process.”
“A status quo transition period is in the interests of both the UK and the EU. It would enable broadcasters to continue investing in local content and new services in the UK and across Europe without the significant disruption of having to restructure their businesses, at least until the long-term future relationship between the UK and the EU is clear.”
International broadcasters invest more than £1 billion (€1.13bn) a year in the UK in the form of content, jobs, overheads and infrastructure. They support, wholly or in part, one in 10 jobs in the UK television sector, and one in five in broadcasting. The UK is Europe’s leading international broadcasting centre, home to 650 international channels