Global broadcasters could leave UK over Brexit uncertainty

Britain could lose its place as the centre for broadcasting in Europe as broadcasters consider leaving. 

As well as being a global leader in TV broadcasting, the UK is also undoubtedly the biggest broadcasting hub in Europe. According to the MAVISE database of TV channels in Europe, around 1400 are established in the UK. And of these, over half are non-domestic channels. Germany and France also both host a large number of channels but with around 500 channels each, their numbers pale in comparison. It’s a valuable industry to the UK too. In a report by the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), the sector grew revenues to £5bn, has doubled employment and increased investment in the UK by nearly 30% in the last three years.

Such is the UK’s appeal to broadcasters that international media companies including Discovery, Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner International all have their European headquarters here. But as Bloomberg reports, Brexit uncertainty is leading broadcasters to consider relocating with Amsterdam and Dublin both vying to attract them to their shores.

The industry has already warned that Brexit is a threat. The danger being that international broadcasters based in the UK would lose access to the EU if it leaves the single market. However, the slow pace of Brexit negotiations and continuing uncertainty over the future UK-EU relationship could mean broadcasters have to make decisions without knowing what the outcome will be.

The UK’s status as Europe’s leading international broadcast centre is at risk

Adam Minns, executive director for the Commercial Broadcasters Association

The Financial Times reports COBA executive director Adam Minns as saying “the UK’s status as Europe’s leading international broadcast centre is at risk”. And in comments made ahead of a recent meeting between business leaders and Downing Street, Minns said “companies need certainty sooner rather than later” before adding that “no one running a business of any scale can wait to the end of negotiations before deciding what to do”. As EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said “the clock is ticking”.

Indeed, meetings are already taking place to draw broadcasters away from London. Bloomberg’s said that both Amsterdam and Dublin are in talks with companies about their options.

If a new deal does now allow companies to continue to broadcast into the EU, they will need to get a license in another EU country as well as move key operations in order to comply with the EU’s ‘country of origin’ rules. In a statement about Brexit, peer and film producer David Puttnam said “the ‘country of origin’ principle allows broadcasters to transmit across the entire EU”. He warned that should the UK no longer operate within these rules, it could result in the “loss of skilled jobs and of significant and hard-won investment”. Puttnam further warned that the impact would be felt in growing subsections such as the visual effects and animation business.

The peer also highlighted the importance of the UK’s ability to attract talent from the EU and around the world. He noted that around 31 to 35% of workers in the sector are EU nationals with a further 12% from non-EU countries. In a plea, he called on the government to stop treating EU citizens in the UK as bargaining chips or risk losing them.

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