The EU is preparing to act against the ‘disproportionate’ amount of UK TV and film content being broadcast in Europe in the wake of Brexit, dealing a blow to the UK entertainment industry and the country’s ‘soft power’ to the UK. foreign.
The UK is Europe’s largest producer of film and television programs, backed by £ 1.4 billion from the sale of international rights, but its dominance has been described as a threat to the ‘cultural diversity’ of the UK. ‘Europe in an internal EU document viewed by the Guardian.
The issue is likely to join a list of hot spots in EU-UK relations since the country left the single market and customs union, including disputes over the sale of British sausages to Northern Ireland. and the licensing of fishing waters, which led to the deployment of Royal Navy patrol boats to Jersey earlier this year.
The objective of Brussels this time is to continue to define British programs and films as “European works”.
Under the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, a majority of airtime must be granted to this European content on terrestrial television and it must represent at least 30% of the number of titles on the platforms of video on demand (VOD) such as Netflix and Amazon.
Countries like France have gone further, setting a quota of 60% of European works on VOD and requiring that 15% of platform turnover be devoted to the production of European audiovisual and cinematographic works.
According to an EU document filed with diplomats on June 8, in the ‘day after Brexit’, the inclusion of UK content in such quotas is believed to have led to what has been described as a ‘disproportionate’ amount of British programs on European television.
‘The high availability of UK content in video-on-demand services, together with the privileges granted by qualifying European works, may result in a disproportionate presence of UK content in the EU video-on-demand quota and hamper further great variety of European works. (including from smaller countries or less spoken languages), ”reads a document distributed to member states. “Consequently, the disproportion may affect the achievement of the objectives of promoting European works and cultural diversity referred to in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. “
The European Commission has been tasked with launching an impact study on the risk to EU ‘cultural diversity’ of UK programming, which diplomatic sources say would be a first step towards action to limit privileges granted to UK content.
Industry figures said a move to define UK content as something other than European, resulting in loss of market share, would hit UK dramas particularly hard, as the pre-sale of international rights to shows such as Downton Abbey and The Crown has often been the basis on which they were able to go into production.
Adam Minns, Executive Director of the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), said: “The sale of international intellectual property rights to UK programs has become a crucial part of financing the production of certain genres, such as drama.
“Losing access to a substantial part of the EU markets would be a blow to the UK television industry, all along the value chain, from producers to broadcasters to creatives.”
The sale of international rights to European channels and VOD platforms brought the UK TV industry £ 490million in sales in 2019-2020, making it the UK’s second largest market behind the US. United.
According to the leaked EU document, titled “The disproportionate presence of British content in the European VOD quota and the effects on the circulation and promotion of various European works”, it is deemed necessary for the block to reassess the “presence of British content in the aftermath of Brexit ”.
“The concerns relate to the impact of Brexit on the audiovisual production sector in the European Union, because, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory, the United Kingdom provides half of the European presence of VOD television content in Europe and UK works are most actively promoted on VOD, while the EU27’s lowest share in promotional spots is also found in the UK, ”the newspaper said.
He adds: “Although the UK is now a third country for the European Union, its audiovisual content is still referred to 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 United Kingdom remains a party.
There have long been fears in the industry that the EU will seek to undermine the UK’s dominance in the audiovisual market once the country leaves the bloc. The government had been warned on several occasions of the risk to the UK screen industry.
Industry sources said they believed it was “when not if”, with the government appearing to have little influence in Brussels on the issue.
European sources have suggested that the initiative would likely be continued when France assumes the continued presidency of the union in January, with support from Spain, Greece, Italy and Austria, among others. . A mid-term review of the AVMS directive is expected in three years, and sources have suggested that the changes could take effect.
A UK government spokesperson said: ‘The UK is proud to be home to a world-class film and television industry which entertains viewers around the world and which the government has supported throughout the pandemic including via the cinema and television restart program.
“The European Work Status continues to apply to audiovisual works originating in the United Kingdom, as the United Kingdom is a party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT) of the Council of Europe. “