LIGHTS, CAMERA... BREXIT
The UK holds a key position in the European audiovisual industry. While there are now more than 4,600 TV channels established in the main EU markets, the country is the largest exporter with more than 1,400 established TV channels of which over 1,000 are exported to the rest of the EU and other countries. Brexit will, however, place a number of stresses on the industry. We sat down with Carole Nuss, Attachée at the department of Media, Telecommunications and Digital Policy at the Ministry of State, to know more about the key role Luxembourg can play in offering a new location for international broadcasters.
After Brexit, UK-based broadcasters will lose the benefit of a number of EU laws ensuring the freedom to provide broadcasting services across the EU and the low trade barriers it brings to the sector.
“The most critical of these laws is the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and its country of origin principle, allowing broadcasters to operate freely across the EU if they satisfy the regulatory requirements and are licensed in the Member State in which their services originate,” explains Carole Nuss, Attachée at the Department of Media, Telecommunications and Digital Policy at the Luxembourg Ministry of State.
Currently, many broadcasters are still evaluating the options available to them post-Brexit.
Losing access to EU-wide broadcast rights could cost the UK’s television market one billion pounds per year in investment from international broadcasters, according to the UK industry association for commercial broadcasting. To safeguard the transmission of their channels across the EU, such broadcasters will need to move some of their operations, Head Office, part of their workforce or have a satellite uplink in an EU member state to qualify for a licence there.
“Currently, many broadcasters are still evaluating the options available to them post-Brexit: whether they would apply for a licence in the continent or fall under the competence of a member state by having a satellite uplink in an EU country,” she adds.
Luxembourg is considered as a dynamic gateway for currently UK licenced broadcasting companies. The UK-based media consultancy Expert Media Partners, recently ranked Luxembourg among the TOP 3 jurisdictions for broadcasting in the EU, based on factors such as regulatory environment, ease of doing business, creative infrastructure and quality of life.
MEDIA AT HEART
Since the 1960s, the Grand Duchy has been playing a pioneering role in the European media landscape.
“We were the first country to authorise commercial radio and TV long before other European countries. This has sparked the development of a dynamic and diverse broadcasting ecosystem,” highlights Carole Nuss.
We were the first country to authorise commercial radio and TV long before other European countries.
While Luxembourg hosted SKY before the latter moved to the UK in 1990, the Grand Duchy is now home to major giants in the media industry such as Europe’s largest broadcaster RTL Group, operating TV channels and radio stations in 10 countries or ENEX, the Association of the world’s leading commercial TV broadcasters sharing news content. RTL group operates TV channels and radio stations in 10 countries as well as production companies throughout the world.
he presence of major global media play - ers plays a big role in the interest we receive from UK-based broadcasters.
The presence of major global media players plays a big role in the interest we receive from UK-based broadcasters. It demonstrates our proven track-record and expertise,” she adds.
DELIVERING CONTENT IN THE MOST REMOTE AREAS
The development of Luxembourg’s media industry has been boosted by a strong network of satellite, playout and distribution facilities.
“A key factor for broadcasters is obviously the know-how and availability of satellite technology to assure uplinking services.”
SES, the world’s leading satellite operator is headquartered in Luxembourg and now counts a fleet of about 50 satellites serving over 8,000 channels, standard TV, HDTV and the world’s first Ultra HD channels to more than 1 billion people in 325 million homes worldwide. The company is the only satellite operator in the world offering connectivity from two different orbits, the Geostationary and the Medium Earth Orbit. Thanks to this unique combination of these two fleets, SES network solutions and extensive ground infrastructure can reach the most remote areas on earth.
A large part of the broadcasters established in the UK are operating on SES Astra satellites.
“A large part of the broadcasters established in the UK are operating on SES Astra satellites.
Many of them have contacted us, either because they use an SES Astra satellite and would thus fall under the jurisdiction of Luxembourg due to their satellite use or because they consider Luxembourg as a possible new hub for their operations.”
If the UK becomes a third country and these broadcasters do not have an establishment in another EU country, Luxembourg would inherit the regulatory oversight of these channels.
“The Luxembourg broadcasting regulator would then have to monitor the content of these channels and would become the first European point of contact for all matters and complaints in connection with these channels.”
Though, Nuss explains that relocation to the continent offers a more stable solution for broadcasters.
It is possible that some companies choose the satellite option in a first phase until the outcome of Brexit becomes clearer. On the other hand, the establishment on the continent is a more stable and secure solution for accessing the internal market with all its benefits such as free movement of people.”
WORLD-CLASS IT INFRASTRUCTURE
“The media industry relies a lot on the ability to exchange with its peers, on technical expertise related to broadcasting, IT infrastructure and connectivity. Thanks to the vast choice of service providers available in Luxembourg, broadcasters know that they will be understood and taken care of.”
he media industry relies a lot on the abil - ity to exchange with its peers, on technical expertise related to broadcasting, IT infra- structure and connectivity.
Luxembourg’s mature broadcasting business ecosystem is completed by a broad range of technical players. Media company Broadcasting Center Europe provides for all the necessary technical support services needed to operate efficiently in terms of playout services, distribution, post-production or system integration.
A key factor for broadcasters is obviously the know-how and availability of satellite technology to assure uplinking services.
The company currently serves about 400 international customers ranging from TV channels, content producers and distributors.
“The Grand Duchy has successfully embraced the IT revolution whilst consolidating its position in the media industry. It is a data-driven economy with world-class digital infrastructures. The country’s modern data centre parks, ultra-high speed connections or international fiber routes to European hubs are key elements taken into consideration by media payers.”
A POSITIVE STANCE TOWARDS BROADCASTING
Luxembourg’s long-standing history in broadcasting has shaped a pragmatic business-oriented regulatory landscape, especially suited for the cross-border needs of broadcasting services.
“Broadcasting services have a true cross-border dimension. Luxembourg is European at heart with a deep expertise in cross-border services. Only Luxembourg and London have this specific know-how in this area while the other markets are very local. Luxembourg’s regulation has always looked beyond its borders, with a deep cross-border outlook,” explains Carole Nuss.
Luxembourg is European at heart with a deep expertise in cross-border services.
Given the current uncertainty and political turmoil surrounding Brexit, she explains that political stability is ranked among the top criterias of broadcasters when choosing a new location.
“Luxembourg’s history is grounded in political stability and economic performance. The fact that Luxembourg ranks 1st in Europe and 2nd worldwide in terms of political stability is extremelyimportant for broadcasters given the current tendencies in other countries.”
The fact that Luxembourg ranks 1 st in Europe and 2 nd worldwide in terms of political stability is extremely important for broadcasters given the current tendencies in other countries.
A multilingual business environment makes it easy for global players to communicate efficiently with authorities.
“There is a very direct and open dialogue with authorities and short communication lines to the Ministry of Communications. The regulator accepts official documentation in English, French or German which makes the application process very smooth for international broadcasters,” she adds.
MAINTAINING ACCESS TO EU TALENTS
While freedom of movement has hugely benefited the UK broadcasting industry, maintaining access to EU talent has become an acute issue as a result of Brexit.
It is estimated that between 10–20% of the UK’s audio-visual workforce is comprised of EU nationals—in London, the percentage is much higher. On what terms and within what parameters will the EU workforce be able to stay?
Free movement of cast and crew may be in jeopardy if visas or permits are required, because they need to crew-up so quickly.
The UK audio visual industry is relying on creative people from all over Europe. The ability for UK productions to use EU talent, and vice versa, while also being able to move around the content, are key. Free movement of cast and crew may be in jeopardy if visas or permits are required, because they need to crew-up so quickly.”
Language is never a barrier in the communication with service providers or authorities as the country is multilingual and fluent in English.
For Carole Nuss, London’s attractiveness as a creative hub will not fade but will be heavily challenged. Luxembourg’s international outlook and responsive authorities will be a decisive ally for broadcasters eager to maintain access to the EU talent pool.
“Luxembourg has a very central geographical position with a good transport network and excellent flight connections to London and other key European cities. Language is never a barrier in the communication with service providers or authorities as the country is multilingual and fluent in English. Authorities have proven to be very responsive when it comes to delivering work permits. All these elements mean that skilled workforce can be attracted easily.”