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The UK Communication Industries: the impact of a proposed UK Brexit from the EU

1 January 2016 - 31 December 2016

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Alison Harcourt

Research partners:

Funding awarded: £ 109,806

Sponsor(s): ESRC Research Fellowship

Project webpage(s)

The UK Communication Industries: the impact of a proposed UK Brexit from the EU

About the research

In written evidence to the House of Lords, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport wrote in 2013, "Industry figures indicate that the UK is Europe's leading exporter of TV programmes and second only to US globally. We are the world's No.1 in sales of TV format shows. Domestically the multichannel sector contributes £4.2 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy through expenditure in employment, advertising and marketing, distribution and support services, as well as content investment" (House of Lords, 2013). The United Kingdom has become an internationally leading base for companies broadcasting and providing communications services abroad. This was made possible through European legislation which liberalised cross-border broadcasting and other services e.g. the on-demand downloading of films and other programming via satellite, broadband and the internet. With the end to roaming charges by 2017, these services will be increasingly downloaded via mobile phones. Hundreds of companies have located in the UK to take advantage of a liberal and stable regulatory environment for operation.

The well-known company, Sky, relocated to the UK from Luxembourg in 1990. Sky now broadcasts to the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria with over 20 million customers and £11 billion in tax revenue. Another large company, the Modern Times Group (MTG), broadcasts 60 channels in 36 countries from the UK. A third company, MTG, is the largest commercial operator broadcasting in Scandinavia and the Baltics, and has broadcasting operations in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and the Ukraine. The UK-based group, Central European Media Enterprises Ltd (CME),
broadcasts 34 commercial, subscription and on-demand channels to approximately 50 million viewers throughout Central and Eastern Europe including Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Today, the UK regulatory body, OFCOM, licenses 1577 television for channels broadcasting across Europe. Companies owning these channels include: Box, Discovery, CBN, Al Jazeera, CBS, AXN, Black Entertainment, Mushroom TV, CSC, ABS, Penny Street, Viacom, Paramount, Coral racing, AETN, Disney, Sparrowhawk, DM Digital, Filmbox, 4 Ventures, E Enterntainment, ESPAN, Eternal World, Playboy, Zonemedia, Millenium, Lightdragon, Baltic Media, CSC, RHF, Fox, Freesat, Coloured Rocks, GEO Tv, AETN, HITV, Zonemedia, JimJam, Sparrowhawk, MTV, Dolphin, NGC, Nikelodeon, STV, Polsat, Sky, Turner, Viasat. Further on-demand services are licensed by the UK regulatory body, ATVOD.

If the UK were to withdraw from the EU but become a member of the EFTA these companies could still broadcast to Europe from the UK under the EEA's Single Market agreement. However, the UK would no longer be participant to Brussels' decision-making. This raises the questions: what effect would a UK exit have on EU decision-making? What subsequent effect would this have on the UK market? The project research is interested in whether changes to communications policy at the European level which might affect UK interests and how UK-based stakeholders might change their preferences accordingly.

The key question of the project is: What effect could withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU) have on the UK's communications sector? Over a period of one year, the PI will consult stakeholders and provide forums for scenarios building exercises on the effect of a UK exit on the communications sector. This will be done through an online questionnaire of key stakeholders, 2 symposiums, and 10 policy briefing papers as well as communication with the media and other public platforms.

The project will concentrate on current proposals for revisions to the proposed Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the General Data Protection Regulation which deal with cross-border broadcasting and privacy/data protection respectively. In this way, evidence-based scenarios are aimed at improving public discourse.


Economic and Social Research Council