The United Kingdom has left the European Union and the transition period will end on the last day of 2020. Although an ‘oven-ready’ trade deal was promised, the current political posturing means that it may not make it to the table, leaving broadcasters and online video businesses to get ready for a ‘no-deal’ scenario that many have long anticipated. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom has renewed guidance on how the rules for broadcasters and online video services will change.
On 1 January 2021, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the country of origin principle will no longer apply to services under United Kingdom jurisdiction broadcast into the European Union.
However, the European Convention on Transfrontier Television framework of 1993 will still apply to broadcast services.
The 20 European Union countries that have signed up to this convention must allow freedom of reception to services under United Kingdom jurisdiction, although how this is applied depends on different national laws and implementation. There is a standing committee to resolve disputes, but this has not met since 2010.
That leaves seven countries in the European Union that have not signed or ratified the ECTT. They are Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Sweden.
Notably, that list includes Ireland, with which the United Kingdom shares a land border. The United Kingdom has said it is committed to continued licence free reception of RTÉ1 RTÉ2, and TG4 from Ireland, but many services licensed in the United Kingdom will remain receivable in Ireland.
An Ofcom licence is required for services receivable in the United Kingdom and this should cover the 20 other countries that have signed and ratified the ECTT. Separate licences may be required for services receivable in the remaining seven countries that are not signatories.
Services from these seven countries that are available in the United Kingdom will also require a licence from Ofcom. Alternatively, the broadcaster could change the way it operates so that it falls within the jurisdiction of a country that is party to the ECTT.
Crucially, the ECTT does not apply to online video services. That means that European Union countries are free to impose conditions on the availability of such services in their territories through national laws.
Further guidance is available from the United Kingdom government and Ofcom web sites. It is generally the responsibility of the service provider to ensure that they are correctly licenced, which may require local legal and regulatory advice in the relevant countries.
Most major media companies will have seen this coming and many have re-organised their operations and licensing arrangements accordingly.