AVMSD and Brexit

Last updated 15 July 2020

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive deals with legislation regarding TV broadcasts and on-demand services. It addresses commercial issues such as jurisdiction as well as social factors, including accessibility, children’s content, and programmes which incite racial and religious hatred.

Relevant policy:
Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services in view of changing market realities

See also: EC Preparedness Notice on Audiovisual media services (updated May 2020).

The AVMSD is part of the Digital Single Market strategy.

Progress and developments:.

The dialogue on the AVMSD post-Brexit began in November 2016, when the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons noted, to put it mildly, “there are important questions arising from this.”

In March 2017 the Committee requested the following clarifications from Government on the AVMSD:

  • how significant an impact would the failure to secure a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which permitted full access to the Single Market for broadcasting have on UK-based international broadcasters?
  • in the absence of a FTA, to what extent would UK-based international broadcasters who wished to retain present levels of access to the EU market (e.g., for broadcast of on-demand services throughout the EU27) be required to relocate part or all of their operations to another EU Member State?
  • what proportion of the international broadcasters the Government has consulted with indicated that they would countenance such action, in the absence of an FTA that addressed their concerns? and
  • how many jobs depend, in the Government’s estimate, on the ability of UK-based international broadcasters to retain current levels of market access to the EU market
  • while the Great Repeal Bill will minimise short-term regulatory divergence and ensure that “the same rules and laws will apply on the day after Brexit as they did before”, many of those provision (particularly those which relate to market access) are reciprocal: to what extent, therefore, will retaining EU rules in domestic law secure continued market access post-exit?
  • Whether the Council of Europe Convention on Transfrontier Television guarantees that UK productions will continue to contribute towards European Works quotas for both linear and non-linear productions?
  • is there any means by which the EU could disapply the Council of Europe Convention on Transfrontier Television in the future, if it wished to further reduce UK-based broadcasters’ access to the EU market? and
  • is there any precedent for the EU offering significant market access to broadcasters based in a third country through a Free Trade Agreement?

On 25 April the Committee considered Government’s response to these questions, noting that

The Minister does not answer a number of the Committee’s Brexit-related questions, including: how significant a failure to secure continued access to the EU market would be for UK-based international broadcasters; what proportion of UK-based international broadcasters would have to relocate part or all of their operations to the EU if this eventuality came to pass; and how many jobs depend on securing continued access to the EU market.

We request an update from the meeting of the council of Ministers on 22 May, as well as an update in progress in the European Parliament and (in due course) trilogue negotiations. We specifically request information about any developments which could potentially impact the terms on which third country broadcasters (which UK broadcasters will become, post-exit) can access the Single Market for broadcasting.

Further progress, of course, came to a halt due to the unnecessary General Election.

In November 2017 the Committee returned to the AVMSD and gave the Minister for Digital extra Brexit homework.

In September 2018 the ESC returned to the issue, noted the past year’s worth of negotiations on the Directive within the EU, and put forward several scenarios, including what would happen in a “no deal”. (You can guess).

Government’s September 2018 technical preparation notice for a “no deal” Brexit and the AVSMD advised that broadcasters will need to take responsibility for acquiring broadcast licenses or authorisation for each European country where their services are available. It also notes that “in any scenario the UK is committed to ensuring continued licence-free reception for TG4, RTÉ1 and RTÉ2 to reflect and build-on the commitments in the Good Friday agreement”, proving that the Irish border is full of rabbit holes.

See also the European Memoranda page holding the considerable government correspondence on the AVSMD negotiations.

In January 2019, The Guardian reported that the BBC is looking for a home for its post-Brexit EU base, which it will need to continue broadcasting in the EU under AVMSD rules.