EU 'to reduce number of British TV shows and films aired post-Brexit'
21st June 2021

EU ‘plans to reduce the number of British TV shows and films after declaring them a threat to Europe’s “cultural diversity” after Brexit’

  • The EU could declassify British films and TV programmes as ‘European works’ 
  • European shows must have a majority of TV airtime and 30% on streaming sites
  • The move would be huge blow to the industry which sells £1.4bn in rights abroad 

The EU is planning to massively reduce the amount of British TV shows and film shown in Europe because of their threat to ‘cultural diversity’ in the wake of Brexit.

The move will be a blow to the UK’s entertainment industry, which is boosted by the £1.4billion sale of international rights, as well as the country’s soft power abroad.

The UK is Europe’s biggest producer of film and TV, with many much-loved shows such as The Crown and Downton Abbey attracting huge global audiences, but the EU wants to diminish its ‘disproportionate’ influence.

The EU is planning to massively reduce the amount of British TV shows and film shown in Europe because of their threat to ‘cultural diversity’ in the wake of Brexit

In an internal EU document seen by The Guardian, the bloc wants to no longer define British shows and films as ‘European works’.

Under an EU directive, European content must receive a majority of airtime on terrestrial TV and at least 30 per cent of titles on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon.

Some countries such as France have gone even further, with a 60 per cent quota for video on demand platforms and demanding 15 per cent of their turnover is spent in the production of European projects.

Under the new rules, British works would not qualify, meaning more air time would have to be given to TV and films produced by EU countries.

The paper distributed among EU member states says: ‘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 with the European video on demand quota and hinder a larger variety of European works (including from smaller countries or less spoken languages). 

The UK is Europe’s biggest producer of film and TV, with many much-loved shows such as The Crown and Downton Abbey attracting huge global audiences

‘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 document was tabled with European diplomats on June 8 and addresses the European media landscape ‘in the aftermath of Brexit’. 

The issue is the latest in a number of fraught disagreements between the EU and the UK since Brexit, including fishing waters and the sale of British sausages in Northern Ireland.

The European Commission has been ordered to launch an impact study on the risk to the EU’s ‘cultural diversity’ of British film and TV.

Diplomatic sources said the move could be the first step towards action limiting the privileges which are granted to UK media.

If British works are no longer described as European, it could be a major blow to British drama according to industry figures.

Diplomatic sources said the move could be the first step towards action limiting the privileges which are granted to UK media

The pre-sale of international rights to hit shows such as The Crown and Downton Abbey are often the basis for their production.

The UK TV industry earned £490million from the sale of international rights to European channels and on demand platforms in 2019-20, the second biggest market after the US. 

Adam Minns, executive director of the Commercial Broadcasters Association, said: ‘Selling the international intellectual property rights to British programmes has become a crucial part of financing production in certain genres, such as drama.

‘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.’

The UK government had been previously warned of the risk that the EU would try to reduce the dominance of the British screen industry after Brexit.

According to EU sources, the initiative may be taken further when France assumes the rolling presidency of the Council of the EU in January 2021.

A midterm review of the directive will also take place in three years time which could signal a change in the UK’s status.

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