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C21May iPad

COBA warns of Brexit ‘cliff edge’

The Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA) has warned that the UK’s £1bn (US$1.28bn) digital, cable and satellite industry will face “huge disruption” if the country leaves the European Union (EU) without a formal agreement.

Adam Minns

The UK is home to around 650 international channels, more than any other European country, and COBA has consistently warned of the dangers the industry will face if an agreement over the future relationship between the UK and the EU is not struck by the March 29 deadline.

Broadcasters that air channels from the UK to the EU would be required to secure licences from regulators in the remaining EU member states before the end of March in order to comply with regulations if a deal is not agreed.

This would cause major issues for the industry, said COBA, which represents an array of members that operate pay, free-to-air and on-demand offerings, including Disney and Discovery Communications.

“Crashing out of the EU will create huge disruption for the UK’s international broadcasting sector, its workforce and its suppliers,” the trade body said.

Adam Minns, COBA’s executive director, added that the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s future had already caused some broadcasters to move their operations, while others are waiting to see the outcome before undertaking “this immensely complex and difficult decision.”

“The costs and uncertainty of a hurried relocation will be felt by businesses, their employees and the supply chain,” Minns added. “COBA urges MPs to consider the importance of avoiding a cliff edge, whatever ultimate scenario they favour.”

COBA has repeatedly warned that a no-deal Brexit would cause big problems for the UK’s international broadcast sector, with Minns blasting this summer’s government white paper that laid out plans for the country’s departure from the EU.

The UK parliament is in the midst of a five-day debate on the EU withdrawal bill put forward by prime minister Theresa May after nearly two years of negotiations with European leaders over the terms of the UK’s exit from the union.

Yesterday the government suffered three defeats in parliament for the first time in 40 years, leaving the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 as a distinct possibility.

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