EU could strip British TV shows of ‘European’ status

Dominic West as Prince Charles, and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in a scene from The Crown - Keith Bernstein/AP
Dominic West as Prince Charles, and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in a scene from The Crown - Keith Bernstein/AP

Brussels is considering removing the UK from the list of countries that streaming giants can use to meet EU quotas for “European” TV shows.

On-demand platforms must carry at least 30 per cent European content in their catalogues under the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

Britain is one of the largest contributors to services like Netflix with hits such as The Crown, Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders watched across the EU.

But a European Commission policy paper suggested that UK shows should not be classified as “European” because of Brexit when the rules are revised.

“The need to re-define the concept of European works has been raised in the context of Brexit,” said the paper, which was first reported by the Politico website.

“It is arguable that, since the UK is no longer a member of the EU, works originating in the UK should no longer be considered as European.”

Commission considers tightening rules

The quotas are an incentive to invest in programming that counts towards the EU-mandated target because they guarantee shows will be snapped up.

British programmes made up about 28 per cent of the platforms’ European investments in 2021, according to European Audiovisual Observatory figures. That was more than EU members Germany’s 21 per cent and France’s 15 per cent.

European works are defined as those made in and produced mainly by EU nationals or those from countries that have ratified the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television, which includes the UK.

The commission is considering tightening those rules so that Convention signatories also need close ties with the EU to be considered European, such as being a candidate country to join the EU or a member of the European Economic Area, which would exclude the UK.

However, any changes to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive are not due to be put forward until 2026.

'Fact-finding exercise'

The commission told The Telegraph it was carrying out a “fact-finding exercise” to make sure European works benefitted from a “diverse, fair and balanced market”. The report, which is due in spring, will also “shed light on the impact of Brexit in the EU audiovisual ecosystem,” it said.

“The UK remains committed to European works. We continue to support its contribution to cultural enrichment across Europe and to provide audiences access to content they know and love,” the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said.

The policy paper, which is dated December last year, also suggests cutting Swiss programmes from the European quota.

Like the UK at the time the paper was written, Switzerland’s relations with the EU were strained over negotiations over a treaty governing its relationship with Brussels.

UK-EU relations have since improved with the striking of the new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.