The UK Government has published its White Paper on The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and The European Union, disagreement over which saw two resignations within the Department for exiting the European Union, as well as that of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
In terms of sectors covered by any future economic partnership, the Government says that digital services trade between the UK and the EU will continue to be important, as both try to capitalise on the growth of digital technologies globally.
“While the UK will not be a part of the EU’s Digital Single Market, the UK wants to develop an ambitious policy on digital trade with the EU, as well as globally.” The UK therefore proposes a digital relationship that covers: a. digital trade and e-commerce; b. telecommunications and digital infrastructure; c. digital technology; and d. broadcasting.
The Government notes that the audiovisual sector is both economically and culturally important to the UK and the EU. The UK’s creative hub contributes significantly to the development of products that are much in demand by European consumers.
“The UK is leaving the Single Market,” it states. “As a result, the ‘country of origin’ principle, in which a company based in one Member State can be licensed by a national regulator and broadcast into any other Member State, will no longer apply. The UK is seeking the best possible arrangements for this sector. The UK’s commitments to the provision of Irish language broadcasting in Northern Ireland by RTE and TG4, as set out in the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement and a subsequent Memorandum of Understanding with the Irish Government, will be guaranteed through UK statutory and domestic provisions,” it confirms.
The Government notes that European Works is a system designed to promote domestic European production and preserve cultural identity. “The European Works content quota applies to works which originate in Member States and non-EU European countries which are party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television of the Council of Europe (CTT). This requires broadcasters to reserve a certain amount of air time for European works. In the case of on-demand services, providers must promote the production of and access to European works,” it advises.
“As confirmed in the EU’s ‘Notice to Stakeholders’ in the field of audiovisual media services, works originating in the UK will continue to be classed as European works,” it says. “The UK’s position as a party to the CTT will not be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and therefore the UK will continue to be able to treat audiovisual works originating in the EU as European works,” it notes.
In March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May called for “creative options” to address the licensing problems likely to be faced by UK-based broadcasters following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
In a detailed speech setting out her vision for the future economic partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union, May noted that broadcasting would be affected by leaving the Digital Single Market and that broadcasting was an area which had never been covered in a Free Trade Agreement in any meaningful way before.
The PM’s call followed the publication of a report mid-February 2018 commissioned by UK trade body the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), who warned that investment was at risk unless the Government secures access to EU markets once the UK leaves the EU and the potential damage to the UK television sector if access is not secured to EU markets for international broadcasters based in the UK.
The report found that international broadcasters invested £1.02 billion (€1.1bn) in 2017 in such areas as content investment, production facilities, wage costs, overheads and technology – making a major contribution to the critical mass and global competitiveness of the UK television sector.
More recently, speaking at a Media Summits event in London on Brexit Strategy – What does ‘Brexit’ mean for the media and entertainment sector – Adam Minns, the Executive Director of COBA, suggested that companies needed six to nine months to execute on plans to move to a new jurisdiction and so – counting back from March 2019 – that meant the end of this summer at the latest for greenlight decisions
On the basis of the proposal set out in the White Paper, the UK’s negotiating team will now engage with the EU’s at pace, in order to conclude the Article 50 negotiations this autumn. This means finalising both the Withdrawal Agreement and the framework for the future relationship.