The British continue to belong to Europe in the film sector – Brexit or not. But there are efforts in Brussels to change that.
However, British series on Netflix and other streaming platforms are very popular in Europe as is Cookie Casino.
British Netflix series such as “The Crown” also enjoyed great popularity among EU citizens during the past Corona winter. This is no wonder – as the EU is the second most important market for British film productions after the US. However, after Brexit, Brussels is considering whether the high share of British productions in the quotas for European works on TV and streaming platforms is still justified.
According to the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, European productions must account for the majority of airtime on TV channels and at least 30 percent on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. This includes British crowd-pleasers like “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey” in the European quota. This is because although the UK is now a third country for the EU following Brexit, audiovisual content from the island is still considered “European works” under the EU Directive.
The reason for including British film productions in the European quota: although the UK is no longer part of the EU, it is part of the Council of Europe – an organization that includes states such as Bosnia-Herzegovina or Ukraine in addition to the EU countries. The UK also still supports a 1989 Council of Europe agreement on cross-border television.
ENGLISH IS THE LINGUA FRANCA
British membership in cross-border television in Europe is definitely in the economic interest of the United Kingdom. After all, especially with video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon, British productions find easy access to audiences in the EU because the English language is still considered the “lingua franca” in the Community – Brexit or not. Conversely, British TV series are generally only really worthwhile for producers when they can subsequently be marketed within the EU.
However, this win-win situation is not met with approval everywhere in the EU. A working paper from the Portuguese EU presidency, obtained by the Tagesspiegel, warns against a “disproportionate share of content from the UK in the European quota for video-on-demand services.”
The paper, which was on the table at a June 8 meeting of ambassadors from the 27 EU countries, referred to data from the Council of Europe’s Audiovisual Observatory showing that half of the TV productions available on streaming services come from the UK. This, according to the EU presidency paper, could jeopardize the “cultural diversity” enshrined in the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Whether a majority can actually be found among EU member states for a reassessment of the British share in European film productions is questionable. However, after Brexit, representatives of France in particular are mobilizing in Brussels to push back the British media presence.
ABOUT THE COMMISSION ACTION PLAN
An action plan presented by the EU Commission last December could serve as leverage. The Brussels-based authority wants to help media throughout the EU get back on its feet economically after the pandemic. Recently, French MEP Laurence Farreng tabled an amendment to the action plan. In it, she suggested working again on the definition of “European works.”
From the French point of view, a redefinition of “European works” is likely to have one main thrust: to the detriment of British productions, which have so far continued to belong to Europe in this sector.