Political agreement has been reached in Europe on proposed rules to make it easier for broadcasters to make certain programmes available online, as well as simplifying the retransmission of radio and television channels. The arrangements for services based in the United Kingdom remain uncertain, despite accounting for the majority of channels in the Europe Union targeting another member state.

The proposed directive complements the existing satellite and cable directive, which currently facilitates cross-border satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission of television and radio programmes from other European Union member states. This allows many channels to be available in other member states in addition to their country of origin.

The proposal to extend this to online transmission and retransmission is part of a broader initiative to update the regulations for the digital environment.

“I am very pleased we reached yet another agreement that brings us closer to a functioning Digital Single Market,” said Andrus Ansip, the vice president for the Digital Single Market. “The updated broadcasting rules are a big part of the puzzle. This regulation has the potential to unlock a large amount of broadcast content across borders, benefitting the 41% of Europeans who watch TV online but also the 20 million EU citizens who were born in a different EU country from the one they live in.”

The directive will extend the country of origin principle to facilitate the licensing of rights for certain programmes that broadcasters may wish to offer on their online services, including preview, simulcast, and catch-up services.

It will allow broadcasters to clear all relevant rights in the member state in which they are established and make available online any radio programmes, television news and current affairs programmes, and their own fully financed productions, in all European Union countries.

The directive also provides a mechanism to facilitate the licensing of rights in the case of the retransmission of radio and television programmes, including retransmission services provided over the internet, provided that they take place in a controlled environment to a clearly defined group of recipients.

There is also provision for so-called ‘direct injection’ by which broadcasters provide signals to service providers directly, without them being first made available to the public.

The provisional agreement will have to be confirmed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can be formally adopted as a directive. Member states will have to transpose the directive into national legislation within two years from its entry into force.

The directive would not necessarily apply to the United Kingdom in the event that it leaves the European Union, depending on any transitional arrangements or subsequent negotiated agreement.

The United Kingdom accounts for 29% of television channels and 27% of on-demand services in the European Union, making it the leading country of establishment.

Almost 60% of all European channels targeting another country are established in the United Kingdom. Close to 50% of all European on-demand services primarily targeting another country are established in the United Kingdom.

With continuing uncertainty over Brexit, a number of international broadcasters based in the United Kingdom have been preparing contingency plans.

NBC Universal and Turner Broadcasting system have both had broadcast licences granted to German subsidiaries by the Bavarian media authority BLM.