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UK broadcasters in conundrum

Brexit is causing a political conundrum in the UK — and it is taking a toll on the daily life of individuals and corporations in the kingdom.

Prime Minister Theresa May has been in talks with the EU to extend the current broadcast licensing arrangement for two years as she struggles to garner support from the members of Parliament.

According to a research by Oliver & Ohlbaum, international media companies collectively spend US$1.3 billion annually on content, production facilities and technology in the UK.

Moreover, more than 500 pan-European channels are using broadcast licences issued by UK regulator Ofcom that helms the UK as the most significant hub for linear TV and on-demand services targeting the European region.

David Justin, president of One Six International based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, told The Straits Times of Singapore that “if it’s a hard Brexit, they would face a blackout in some countries”.

EU rulings state that broadcasters need to set up a head office with a significant part of their workforce or satellite up-link in an EU member country to qualify for a licence.

Global broadcasters such as Discovery and Comcast NBC Universal with regional hubs in Britain have applied for broadcast licences in other parts of the EU to ensure the smooth transmission of their channels across the EU countries.

Turner Broadcasting System Deutschland has already applied for six broadcast licences for its international TV channels with Germany-based BLM (Bavarian Media Authority).

British broadcaster BBC is reported to be preparing to relocate some of its broadcast operations to The Netherlands to ensure a continuous operation of some channels in the evolving Brexit impasse. The licences sought are in relation to the BBC’s commercial channels that include BBC Brit, BBC Earth, BBC Entertainment, BBC First and BBC Lifestyle.

Adam Minns, executive director of Commercial Broadcasters Association (UK), noted that a critical economic driver in the UK TV industry is the ability to continue the expansion of international channels; thus, if the UK is not able to grant international TV operators broadcasting licences that are recognised by other European countries, it would be very hard for London to sustain short- or long-term growth in the TV industry.


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