Magazine article Variety

Brexit Concerns Abound

Magazine article Variety

Brexit Concerns Abound

Article excerpt

By the time the tv and film worlds descend on Cannes for next April's MipTV and the film festival in May, Britain will no longer be a member of the European Union. "Brexit" officially happens March 29, 2019.

But less than 11 months before that seismic event, the likely impact on the film and TV business in Blighty and Europe remains almost a complete unknown. As in so many divorce cases, negotiations between British and EU officials have been slow and acrimonious.

"It's schizophrenic," Adrian Wootton, head of the British Film Commission and Film London, says of the mood in entertainment circles. "On one hand ... there is a real fear in the independent film industry and television about issues around whether [British] film and TV qualifies as European, the circulation of that material around Europe and status of EU citizens working here.

"On the other hand, with the exchange rate being what it is and with tax breaks in place, we are absolutely one of the biggest go-to places in the world for people to make film and television programs at the moment. We are seeing a volume of demand that is not letting up."

Film and TV production spending hit a record $4 billion last year, and studios including Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden are expanding. A new site is being built in Barking, in East London.

The overwhelming majority of production staffers are Brits. But in the visual effects, post-production and animation sectors, up to 40% of personnel are non-British, making the free movement of labor post-Brexit a key issue. Requiring EU citizens - who don't need visas to live and work in Britain - to go through the existing visa system for foreign skilled workers could result in fewer being allowed in. The current visa process is considered slow, expensive and ill-suited to a sector where experience and reputation count for more than paper qualifications.

Another unresolved area, channel licensing, is leaving Britain vulnerable to poachers. Some European countries have begun wooing U.K.-based businesses considering relocation. Delegations from the Netherlands, Ireland, Estonia and elsewhere have gone to Britain to meet channel operators that run their European business out of the U.K. using British-issued licenses that are currently valid for the whole of the EU but might not be after Brexit.

In March, British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the issue of broadcasting permits for the first time, saying both sides "should explore creative options with an open mind, including mutual recognition. …

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