Brexit: EU prepares to slash number of British TV programmes and films shown on the continent

Row expected to heighten tensions with the bloc

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Monday 21 June 2021 18:15 BST
The Brexit ‘sausage war’: Five things you need to know

After the “sausage war” comes the culture clash – the European Union is preparing to cut the “disproportionate” amount of British film and television shown on the continent after Brexit.

The move would be a blow to the UK’s lucrative entertainment industry.

It also risks increasing tensions between the UK and the bloc, alongside rows over the sale of sausages in Northern Ireland and the licensing dispute that led French fishermen to try to block a Jersey port earlier this year.

Despite Brexit, UK programmes and films are still classed as “European works”.

But a leaked EU document, seen by The Guardian, 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 within the European video-on-demand quota and hinder a larger variety of European works.”

The issue arises partly because of the EU’s audiovisual media services directive, which says that the majority of airtime must be given to European content on terrestrial television and that it must make up almost a third of content on video-on-demand (VOD) services such as Amazon and Netflix.

Some countries go further, insisting on higher quotas.

The document warns that the high proportion of UK films and television programmes “may affect” the objectives of the directive.

The European Commission has now been asked to carry out a study on the risks British programmes pose to the EU’s “cultural diversity”, according to the paper.

Adam Minns, executive director of the Commercial Broadcasters Association, warned that any change could be a serious blow to the industry in the UK. “Selling the international intellectual property rights to British programmes has become a crucial part of financing production in certain genres, such as drama,” he said.

A UK government spokesperson said: “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.”

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