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EU ‘plans to reduce amount of British TV and film to protect “cultural diversity” after Brexit’

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.

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.

While Britain was in the EU, it was part of a quota scheme aiming to ensure European-made shows made it on to European televisions.

But, in the wake of Brexit, the EU wants to diminish Britain’s ‘disproportionate’ influence on the European TV market.

Some described the plans as ‘childish’, while others described it as a ‘bitter blow’ to the British film industry.

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

British shows that are popular in Europe

Downton Abbey

Sherlock

Planet Earth

Doctor Who

Top Gear

The Crown

Poldark

Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Call the Midwife 

Peppa Pig 

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). 

‘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 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

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

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

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

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.

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.

The move was criticised on Twitter, with one user describing it as ‘childish’, while others compared the EU to a ‘bitter ex’.

One Twitter user, sharing the story, said: ‘When you’re going through a bitter divorce and your ex removes all of your photos, so your kids forget what you look like.’

However others, including Holby City star Catherine Russell, said the move would be a blow to the industry. She said: ‘Jesus Christ, that Brexit present really does just keep on giving doesn’t it? I don’t blame them, I really don’t, but this is terrible for us.’

Another Twitter user added: ‘I was afraid something like this would happen. This could be a severe blow for UK film and TV production.’ 


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