This morning it’s been announced that the UK will be leaving the European Union. Already, the value of the pound has dropped to its lowest level since 1985, David Cameron has resigned, and we’re all facing very uncertain times.
And so I’m going to try and answer the question that nobody is asking.
What happens to the telly?
In the run up to the referendum, a survey conducted by the group Media Business Insight revealed that 67% of people working in the media industry feared negative repercussions from a leave vote, with a further 11% remaining uncertain. Facts that have emerged since suggest they may well have been right to be worried.
Trade with the EU accounts for 31% of the UK’s television exports, as well as 56% of the UK’s creative industry as a whole. The export of UK television programmes to European broadcasters is worth around £376 million per year; if links with Brussels are broken, it’s likely that this figure will decrease dramatically.
Having left the EU, the UK will lose access to the EU Media Funds and ERDF funding; it was this money that allowed for investment in different areas of the UK, such as the filming of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland. Following the vote to leave, the UK is going to become less attractive for this type of venture, resulting in fewer available jobs in that sort of creative sector.
EU funding has been important to other ventures too, of course; notable movies in recent years that have received, and been dependent on, funding from Europe included Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady (€1.5m), Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (€1.3m), and historical movie The King’s Speech (€1m). In terms of television, the EU’s Media Desk provided funding for Sky’s The Last Panthers, as well as Hinterland, Shaun the Sheep, and Inside Obama’s White House for the BBC.
A huge contingent of actors, musicians and comedians all spoke out against a vote to leave, fearing the impact on the TV & Film industries; notable names include Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sir Patrick Stewart and Kiera Knightley, alongside a further two hundred and eighty more. Culture minister Ed Vaizey has also stated that “leaving the EU would be an utter disaster” for the UK creative industries, while John McKay – Chief Executive of PACT, the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television – has gone on record to suggest that the UK leaving the EU would lead to a significant reduction in British television exports.
The Olswang Media Group – an international law firm renowned for their experience and expertise in the area of technology, media and telecoms – commissioned an independent report on the impact of Brexit, which can be read in full here. It highlights the potential damage done by restricting free movement of industry professionals, the likelihood of losing important subsidies and support, as well as the general uncertainty which will afflict the industry for a long time to come.
Ultimately, much like with many UK industries following the Brexit vote, it’s difficult to say with great certainty just what, exactly, will transpire – but the signs are certainly worrying.
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