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COBA: £1bn annual British TV investment under threat from Brexit

Losing access to EU markets through Brexit could cost the UK’s television market £1 billion (US$1.4 billion) per year in investment from international broadcasters, an influential broadcaster body has warned.

Research from media analysis firm Oliver & Ohlbaum (O&O) for the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) reveals that international networks invested £1.02 billion in the UK last year, a 50% increase in six years.

However, the UK’s reputation as a global content hub – and arguably the most important in Europe – was under threat due to Britain leaving the European Union in 2019 and a seemingly lack of dialogue between politicians, claimed COBA.

This is primarily due to questions marks over channels’ UK broadcasting licences, which currently allow businesses to operate throughout Europe.

“The UK is Europe’s number one broadcasting hub for good reason and no one wants to restructure their business, but if a UK broadcasting licence is no longer recognised by the EU, international channels will have no choice,” said COBA executive director Adam Minn.

“This report shows the immense value they have for the UK, and the huge potential for future growth – if we can get this right.

The British government will not welcome COBA’s warning, as it is committed to taking Britain out of the EU after the 2016 referendum vote to leave.

However, there is a growing campaign in many parts of the UK to reverse the decision, which is plunging the country into economic and cultural uncertainty. Many politicians are calling for a second vote to assess if leaving remains the will of the majority.

Minn called on the UK and the EU to “provide clarity on transitional arrangements quickly”, and to “provide security for businesses and their employees in both the UK and the EU.

“Broadcasters cannot wait until the cliff edge in March 2019 before making these decisions; they need to plan any restructuring well in advance,” he added.

O&O’s research showed international channels’ £1 billion-plus investment was primarily in content spend, production facilities, wage costs, overheads and technology.

COBA called this a “major contribution to the critical mass and global competiveness of the UK television sector”.

The body claims one in five TV jobs in the UK are related to international channels.

COBA represents the likes of Viacom, The Walt Disney Company, Turner and Discovery Networks International. In November 2017, it claimed Britain and the EU must strike a trade deal as soon as possible, or risk thousands of local jobs.