LONDON: The UK’s decision to leave the European Union could jeopardise up to £1bn of annual investment from international broadcasters, a new report has warned.

According to COBA, the industry body for international broadcasters, the UK’s reputation as a hub for global broadcasting will be put at risk if the country cannot secure continued access to EU markets for UK-based international channels.

“Once the UK leaves the EU, in the absence of alternative arrangements, international broadcasters will be forced to restructure their European operations to qualify for a broadcast licence from a country within the EU,” COBA said in a statement.

Its stark warning came after new research, commissioned from media strategy firm Oliver & Ohlbaum, revealed the extent to which the UK currently ranks as Europe’s leading international broadcasting centre.

Around 1,400 channels are based in the UK, representing more than a third of all broadcasters in the EU, and more than half of them (761) actually broadcast to overseas audiences rather than ones in the UK – even though their licence originates there.

Furthermore, the number of non-domestic channels based in the UK is growing at 17% per annum, a significantly higher growth rate than domestic UK channels (11%).

International broadcasters also invested a record £1.02bn in the UK last year, the report added, representing an increase of 50% on the £679m invested in 2011.

This investment in content, production facilities, technology and staff would be put at risk unless the UK government negotiates new arrangements with the EU, the report predicts.

Adam Minns, COBA’s Executive Director, said: “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. This report shows the immense value they have for the UK, and the huge potential for future growth – if we can get this right.

“We also call on both the UK and the EU to provide clarity on transitional arrangements quickly, 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.”

Sourced from COBA; additional content by WARC staff