The UK’s £1bn industry that sells films and TV shows such as Victoria, Sherlock and Love Island across Europe is under threat from plans in Brussels that will slash their value to broadcasters on the continent, a cross-party group of MPs has warned the government.
The European commission is developing regulations that will allow broadcasters to make their online TV services – such as the iPlayer, ITV Player and Channel 4’s All4 – available to viewers across Europe, while only having to pay the makers of TV shows and films for the right to air their content in one country.
UK TV and filmmakers earn almost £1bn annually selling their shows country-by-country to European broadcasters, earning a fee for licensing a programme in each territory. Critics argue that the commission’s proposals threaten to destroy that value by effectively creating one bargain basement pan-European licence fee for each piece of content sold.
A cross-party group of seven MPs, including former culture secretary John Whittingdale, Labour shadow culture secretary Tom Watson and Scottish National party culture spokesman Brendan O’Hara, have written a letter calling on the government to oppose these aspects of the commission’s Digital Single Market agenda.
“We are writing to urge you to issue a clear and definitive statement of the government’s position on those aspects of the EC’s agenda which currently threaten the future financing of UK film and television content and will result in poor choice for consumers,” says the letter, which has been sent to culture secretary Karen Bradley. “There is a cross-party consensus that the government needs to do more to support the UK audio-visual sector.”
Europe is the second-biggest market for UK TV exports – only North America is bigger – worth well in excess of £400m in sales annually. A further £500m of the £2bn British global film exports annually are accounted for by sales across Europe.
The MPs argue that if this overseas sales revenue is lost it will mean far fewer top quality British TV shows and films being made, and will threaten tens of thousands jobs.
“Any intervention by the European commission which undermines the ability to license on an exclusive territorial basis will lead to less investment in new productions and reduce the quality and range of content available to UK and EU consumers,” said John McVay, the chief executive of Pact, the UK body representing independent TV and film production companies.
The MPs say that the UK government needs to follow the lead of France, Spain and Italy, countries that have expressed opposition to Brussels’ proposals because of the potential impact on their domestic film and TV industries.
The MPs say that the UK’s withdrawal from Europe will not insulate British producers from the problem because the 27 remaining EU countries will operate under the proposed system.
“After Brexit, UK-based companies will still look to distribute content across the European market and engage in co-productions with European partners,” the letter says. “Any proposals that undermine the value of in this market will therefore have a major impact on the UK sector. The discussions at EU level are at a crucial stage and the UK has yet to publish a clear and unambiguous statement on this issue.”
UK’s £1bn TV and film sales industry under threat from new regulations – The Guardian