Last week, in our first focus on the impact of Brexit in the audiovisual sector we took an overall look at the possible aftermath of leaving the EU for those industries in both the British and the EU sides, for which many sources are prophesizing ‘catastrophic’ consequences and categorizing these events as a ‘threat of an end to free movement between the UK and the European Union’, whereas a side of the UK government is also discussing the potential benefits emerging from a greater policy autonomy.

Amidst this convoluted scene, concerns seem to revolve around four core areas: workforce, issues related to EU funding, possible loss of exports and modifications in the policy framework. But to what extent can TV and movies actually influence the outcome of the Brexit negotiations among the big leaders? And what could leaving the EU really represent for the broadcast industries? Let’s just take into account, for now, that more than 9 of the 58 Government reports on the consequences of Brexit on diverse industrial sectors are thought to be related to the media and other creative industries.

The question of the potential reduction of funding gets particularly tricky at the moment in which it is still very difficult to determine to what extent can the Creative Media Program (the media sub-program of Creative Europe) secure their budget for the next years. Over the last 50 years, the Media Program has been actively involved in some of the highest profile figures in Europe’s film and TV markets. Creative Europe, which was established by the European Commission in 2014 as a framework program for the support of culture and audiovisual sectors, is devoting 1.46 billion euros for the 2014-2020 period.

According to the British authorities, “Between 2014 and 2016, Creative Europe supported the cinema distribution of 115 UK films in other European countries”. This considering that grants amounted to 57 million euros, which means that “the UK benefited from 11% of the entire 520 million euros that Creative Europe budget allocated in this period”, as stated by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee of the House of Commons in their Second Report of Session 2017-19.

With these numbers, securing funding from Creative Europe for the next period is also critical to guarantee the access of private investment in future projects. According to Creative Europe Desk UK, the European funding has been essential when securing additional investment for over half (52%) of beneficiaries from the media industries. Indeed, those media sub-program beneficiaries in the UK were able to increase their funding by 108 million euros between 2014 and 2016.

Therefore, there is no doubt that the funding will be renewed for 2021 to 2027. The question now is if the budget finally assigned will suffice to make a real impact, as it has been doing in the past. Since late 2013, however, other emerging and critical issues have been prioritized when allocating funds, such as the refugee crisis. Furthermore, it was reported by an internal mid-term evaluation of Creative Europe that the Media Program has too many sub-divisions, as it is distributed into 14 support schemes and 20 action initiatives, which could create difficulties when analyzing the real effectiveness of the budget.

To this respect, last year, in the introduction to a European Film Forum held during the Berlin Film festival, the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, outlined some possible solutions for the Media Program discussion. As she claimed, “maybe it’s time to narrow the number of actions, but to have fewer actions with more effect, maximize the effects of our biggest projects”. “What’s important is to keep the budget, simplify the actual schemes, to see how we can strengthen distribution”, she added. In fact, with a 39% of Media Program funding, the distribution will most likely continue to be one of the main focus of discussion. Gabriel suggested that the biggest priority at the moment is to increase awareness of the success achieved with the Media Program fund. Since production is left to individual countries, the priority should be to increase the cross-border circulation of film, TV shows and gaming by targeting distribution, development, and training.

With the prevalent impact of the fund on the media sector, this increment in circulation does not seem too difficult to achieve. Another speaker in the European Film Forum, Rodolphe Buet, president of the international Global Road Ent., highlighted that “European film heritage draws worldwide praise”, and that “it has been on well-designed support and regulatory policies”. Just to mention a few of its accomplishments, six of the last nine foreign-language Academy Award winners have received the Creative Media funding. Beyond that, the initiative Europa Cinemas supports 1,182 cinemas in 682 cities in 69 countries around the world that offer a big proportion of European-origin movies. Besides, European series such as “Versailles” and “The Bridge” have received the support of the fund, and even “The King’s Speech” benefited from it (1 million euros for its distribution in Europe).

Thankfully, some of these efforts to increase awareness on the effectiveness of these measures seemed to have been soaked up by the British government, which is already seeking to ensure that the wide range of funding sources will not just vanish when the UK leaves the EU. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport of the British government “has secured that all European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) projects signed or with funding agreements in place would be fully funded internally, even when those projects continued beyond the UK’s departure from the EU”, as it was stated in the House of Commons.

For TV co-productions between EU and the UK, efforts are being made to ride out the Brexit storm. New production models taken from the British and Anglo-Saxon TV, like the showrunner model, in which the director plays a more active role, or the so-called commissioning clubs, where international players work together to produce high-end content, were discussed during the last MIA audiovisual market as possible strategies to maintain the cooperation between the EU and UK. “We are trying to see if, by working in a more similar fashion in terms of production models and also in the creative sphere, we can overcome any impediments that Brexit may cause”, said Lucia Milazzotto, director of MIA.

(To be continued…)