Tuesday, October 19

‘The idea is unbearable’: Europeans react to EU plans to cut UK television | Television industry

It was during a trip to Brighton for an English course in 1984 that young German student Nicola Neumann first discovered British television.

“The elderly couple who put me up put a lot of effort into educating me more, so we would sit together in front of the television every night and then talk about the shows,” she said.

You remember seeing newsletters, EastEnders, Coronation Street, and ‘Allo’ Allo! – and every Friday night without fail, a crime drama.

“I was hooked,” she said. “Since then I have not been able to imagine my life without British television and cinema. I like the quality, the tone, the humor, the way it has taught me to express myself in colloquial English. For me it has been an education for three decades ”.

Upon his return to Germany, Neumann continued to get his “fix” through videos and episodes of shows like All Creatures Great and Small and Upstairs, Downstairs, which aired on television, albeit dubbed into German, in Bavaria, where he grew up. . More recently, said Neumann, who is a bookseller from Erlangen, it has been primarily streaming services and YouTube that have helped fuel his desire.

So when it was reported earlier this week that the EU was preparing to act against the “disproportionate” amount of British TV and movies shown in Europe after Brexit, it said it was “furious”.

“Some of us are still reeling from the impact of the Brexit referendum. We have thought about the consequences of things like freedom of movement, import duties or fishing, perhaps, but this is one of the things that we had not paid attention to.

“I guess if it happens I’ll try to get around the problem, even if it means going to the UK and buying loads of DVDs,” he said.

Chiara Lagana, an Italian journalist who writes about television, is equally surprised at the prospect of having less access to British content.

“The idea is really unbearable,” he said. “I have liked British television series for years. The thought of losing them or not having access to new ones makes me feel poorer. They are of great quality, much better even compared to the US. “

In Spain, British television series have always been seen as “prestigious products,” said Natalia Marcos, a journalist for the television section of El País.

“Downton Abbey is an example of that, as is The Crown. But it’s not just period dramas, British police shows are also very popular. Line of Duty has found a real niche among television lovers here, who really value and respect it, “he said.

Marcos said he believed that if Spanish viewers were deprived of their favorite British shows, many would not hesitate to turn to illegal means, such as VPN, encrypted connections over the Internet that help bypass geoblocks.

Gabriele Niola, film critic and Italy correspondent for Screen International, agreed. “I don’t think the impact is too significant, as people will still find ways to access the programs if they really want to,” he said.

But after Brexit, there is a political will to challenge the dominance of British television and film.

When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Rome this week to formally approve Italy’s spending plan for its share of the EU recovery fund, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi greeted her at studies Cinecittà in Rome, where € 300 million (£ 257 million) of funds will be invested in development.

“It is obvious that if Britain leaves the EU, then its productions will no longer be within the community quotas,” Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini told Corriere della Sera. “Europe will have to respond at an industrial and content level, and Cinecittà will be strategic on this front.”

Sten-Kristian Saluveer, Estonian media policy strategist, said the EU’s plans to re-evaluate the amount of UK content, particularly on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, were unavoidable.

“A big catalyst is the increase in trade tensions between the UK and France, as well as the EU’s antitrust proceedings,” he said. “The question is not so much about UK-produced original content as about UK studios connected to platforms like Apple and Netflix, which are very well positioned to use the good relationships the UK has with the US. . exploit European capacity, from work permits to grants, “he said.

“When Britain was in the EU there were side effects for the rest of the bloc. But now it is not, the question is why these platforms should be able to take advantage of the same benefits? “

Saluveer said that smaller EU members could benefit from a reduction in UK content as it could allow more space for their content. He cited the box office success Tangerines, an Estonian-Georgian co-production that was nominated for a Golden Globe, or the Oscar nominee The Fencer, a collaboration between Finland, Estonia and Germany.

Thomas Lückerath, a prominent German television industry journalist and editor-in-chief of the DWDL media magazine, said he believed the EU “had no alternative” but to refocus its definition of what a “European work” was. now that Britain was gone.

The EU audiovisual media services directive, according to which the majority of airtime must be allocated to European content on terrestrial television and must constitute at least 30% of the number of titles on transmission platforms, was introduced to create a distinction with US works that it would otherwise dominate, he said.

“It’s about ensuring that the jobs are done in the EU, that the streaming services use EU talent and are not just taking the money. And it has certainly led to more investment flowing into the creative scene, ”he said.

Since Brexit, he said that “the political agenda has not changed. The 30% quota was simply to boost creativity and that’s what you do. “

He said he believed the ripple effect of this could even lead to more British content, not less. And German television, which recently showed Sherlock in prime time, and where shows like Midsummer Murders and Line of Duty have a cult following, would continue to show as many British series as ever, he said. “There are no plans to cut what people like to see.”

Even in France, notoriously protective of its cultural heritage, British television attracts large audiences and dedicated followers. Costume crimes like Peaky Blinders and Ripper Street, and contemporary police shows like Luther, Killing Eve, and Bodyguard are recent examples.

“British television fiction is of very high quality, there is a lot of it and it is constantly very successful in France,” said Laurence Herszberg, director of the international series Mania festival, adding that several leading French production companies now had British subsidiaries.

Surely any decision by the EU to reduce the amount of British content on screens would be felt. But a recent decline in French interest in American-made series could lessen that impact.

“My impression is that if UK-made content is no longer classified as European, the British product will be able to compensate for the reduced share of US production,” he said. “There will be a fall, but I think maybe not as much as people might fear.”


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