In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote last year, we published our initial reactions anticipating the possible impact on, in particular, the audiovisual industries. We now take stock of what has happened since and, while the situation remains very uncertain, we consider the possible impacts.
The creative industries have spoken in a largely unified voice about their concerns over Brexit and the primary concern remains access to talent (in the very widest sense) post-Brexit. The last government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper recognised the importance of the sector, which has grown at twice the rate of the UK economy as a whole since 2010. Much of that growth has depended on the UK being an attractive creative hub, able to draw on the best talent from around the world and, in particular, the EU. Therefore, the number one issue for the industry remains the impact of any new immigration rules. Clients tell us that the current uncertainty already makes it harder to attract non-UK EU nationals to fill vacant posts. The industries recognise that the longer-term solution to this is better training and education so that more skilled UK nationals come into the labour force.
The second key focus is securing, as far as possible, continued barrier-free access to the EU markets. Before the recent election, the expectation of a “hard” Brexit led many of the UK-based broadcasters who beam their services into other EU countries to draw up contingency plans to secure new licences in other EU territories (which will result in jobs also moving to those territories). While industry has sought to engage with government to have continued “passporting” of audiovisual services under the AVMS Directive added to the list of asks in the Brexit negotiations, the mood has changed to one of pessimism that any relief will be forthcoming. The UK is, by some margin, a net “exporter” of TV channels, so there are few reciprocal benefits for other Member States in permitting the status quo to continue.
On a more positive note, it appears that programming made in the UK will continue to qualify as “European” for quota purposes (despite the ongoing renegotiation of the AVMS Directive), which is at least one opportunity without new barriers to entry. This is particularly important as harder quotas will probably soon apply to on-demand services.
The final key area, where Brexit may allow the UK to take a proactive position, is IP enforcement and, in particular, the debate about the scope of the so-called “safe harbours”. The UK has often led in addressing the challenge posed by new ways of stealing copyright material, such as the current rise in “Kodi boxes” where the Courts have already issued orders and government (in the form of the UK Intellectual Property Office) is already consulting on new laws. Many in the creative industries see an opportunity for a post-Brexit UK to introduce new laws to tackle new forms of piracy with a speed at which the EU legislative process can never realistically move.