Irish authorities have been meeting with international broadcasters to pitch Ireland as a potential solution to licensing problems thrown up by Brexit. IDA Ireland, an agency responsible for encouraging foreign direct investment into the country, and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) have revealed they met with potential investors in London last week to encourage them to relocate their key functions to Ireland after Brexit, in order to allow them to continue broadcasting across the EU.
The UK currently houses more TV channels than any other EU country, with around 1,400 channels based there. UK Prime Minister Theresa May recognised the importance of international broadcasters in a speech earlier this month, in which she said she wants to seek a Brexit solution that will allow for continued trans-frontier broadcasting.
However she also acknowledged that the UK will likely have to negotiate a new agreement with the EU around broadcasting across the border, and this may well cause problems for international broadcasters based in the country.
A report by Expert Media Partners last year highlighted that over 1000 UK based TV channels could face licensing problems after Brexit. Currently a license from the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom allows channels to broadcast throughout the EU too, but this might no longer be the case post-Brexit.
If an Ofcom license is no-longer valid for EU broadcasting after Brexit, companies including Disney and Discovery could be tempted to relocate as they seek a license elsewhere to continue running their European channels.
Ireland is now looking to capitalise on this opportunity, and in the meeting last week advised broadcasters on these licensing issues they may face, and how Ireland could provide a viable alternative.
Shane Nolan, senior vice president at IDA Ireland, outlined the problem. “UK-based international broadcasters face serious challenges post-Brexit, with any potential Brexit deal likely to put the UK outside the current Audio-Visual Media Services Directive licensing regime and, by extension the Country of Origin (COO) principle,” he explained.
“International broadcasters must therefore evaluate options in alternative EU member states to continue to meet COO requirements post Brexit. We have started to engage at a high level with some key targets already and conversations are at an exploratory stage.”
Ireland will likely not be the only EU member state vying for business from broadcasters vacating the UK, but IDA Ireland believes Ireland has several advantages. The country’s licensing regime is very similar to the UK’s according to IDA Ireland chief executive Michael O’Keeffe, and it offers a number of supports and financial incentives for broadcasters and content creators as well.