A paper circulated among its member states suggests that in the wake of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the bloc is preparing to act against the “disproportionate” amount of British television and film content shown in Europe.
The UK’s dominance of international broadcast sales has been described as a threat to Europe’s “cultural diversity” in an internal EU document, The disproportionate presence of UK content in the European VOD quota and the effects on the circulation and promotion of diverse European works, seen by UK news daily The Guardian, with European officials taking issue with the continuing definition of British programmes and film as being “European works”.
The EU’s audiovisual media services (AVMS) directive calls for a majority of airtime to be given to such European content on terrestrial television and it must make up at least 30 per cent of the number of titles on VoD) platforms, with countries such as France going as far as setting a 60 per cent quota for European works on VoD and demanding 15 per cent of the turnover of the platforms is spent in production of European audiovisual and cinematographic works.
The document, drawn up following the UK’s withdrawal from the political and economic union , contends that the inclusion of UK content in such quotas has led to what has been described as a “disproportionate” amount of British programming on European television.
“The high availability of UK content in video on demand services, as well as the privileges granted by the qualification as European works, can result in a disproportionate presence of UK content within the European video on demand quota and hinder a larger variety of European works (including from smaller countries or less spoken languages),” it says. “Therefore the disproportionality may affect the fulfilment of the objectives of promotion of European works and cultural diversity aimed by the audiovisual media services directive.”
The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, is to launch an impact study on the risk to the EU’s “cultural diversity” from British programming, it is understood would be a first step towards action to limit the privileges granted to UK content.
“Selling the international intellectual property rights to British programmes has become a crucial part of financing production in certain genres, such as drama,” asserts Adam Minns, executive director of the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), the UK industry body for digital, cable and satellite broadcasters and on-demand services. “Losing access to a substantial part of EU markets would be a serious blow for the UK TV sector, right across the value chain from producers to broadcasters to creatives,” he warns.
The paper suggests that the EU’s concerns relate to how Brexit will impact the audiovisual production sector in the European Union as, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory, the UK provides half of the European TV content presence of VoD in Europe and the UK works are the most actively promoted on VoD, while the lowest EU27 share of promotion spots is also found in the UK. “Although the UK is now a third country for the European Union, its audiovisual content still qualifies as ‘European works’ according to the definition provided by the AVMS directive, as the definition continues to refer to the European convention on Transfrontier Television of the Council of Europe, to which the UK remains a party,” it notes.
“The UK is proud to host a world-class film and TV industry that entertains viewers globally and which the government has supported throughout the pandemic, including through the film and TV restart scheme,” commented a UK government spokesperson. “European works status continues to apply to audiovisual works originating in the UK, as the UK is a party to the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT).”