The future of soaps and other popular UK television shows in Ireland is uncertain due to Brexit laws which could spell disaster for Irish viewers.
According to new EU laws, every EU broadcaster must ensure that 30% of their on-demand content and half of their daily schedule is produced in Europe.
Due to Brexit, shows produced un the UK no longer classify as European prouder content, meaning Irish stations could have to axe multiple shows in favour of more home-grown content.
Shows such as Coronation Street, Eastenders, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celbrity… Get Me Out of Here and Love Island all face being axed by Irish stations in order to reach the EU quota.
In a letter to Minister Catherine Martin and Irish MEPs released by the Irish Sun under Freedom of Information, Director-General of RTE Dee Forbes and Virgin Media’s Managing Director Paul Farrell have warned that such a move would be disastrous for Irish TV.
The letter read: ‘Both RTÉ and Virgin Media Television schedules would be affected and the ability to maintain multiple TV channels would be seriously undermined. So too would the ability to provide our respective on demand services.
‘This would have major implications on both broadcasters’ funding models and our ability to fund quality home produced content… We share the English language, we co-produce large amounts of high quality series like Normal People, The Young Offenders, and Blood.
‘We both acquire content from the UK which plays an important function in our schedules and is highly valued by the viewing public. UK content being reclassified as non-European works would have major implications on Irish broadcasting and its ability to function.’
Emphasising that as ‘the only English-speaking country in the EU’, Ireland ‘would be uniquely disadvantaged’ by the law, the letter added that if it came to pass then it ‘would negatively impact Irish broadcasting, Irish viewers and the Irish public’.
‘In a market the size of Ireland collaborating with our nearest neighbour is absolutely essential… We are calling on you and our members of the European Parliament to protect the current proposed wording in the AVMS Directive as well as that which is now proposed in the recently published Bill here in Ireland,’ the letter continued.
When quizzed if Virgin Media would possibly have to choose between the Chase and Corrie, Mr Walsh admitted that ‘could very well be’ the case.
He explained: ‘That airs into a business of the broadcaster – spend for programme, contract and ratings. But, yes I would imagine if the hypothetical occurs then it could be a choice of A or B…
‘From my side, it’s a tip of a coin. One side it would put smaller production companies out of businesses. From the other side, if such remove would happen, Ireland could benefit from UK based companies moving to Ireland. But, this is difficult to clearly answer yet.’
RTE added: ‘The UK has a long-standing global reputation for producing programming of the highest calibre which is enjoyed by audiences in Ireland, and it is important that access to such programming is not restricted.’
It’s not just Irish stations facing tough decisions, with the laws also applying to streaming services, includingNetflix and Amazon.
Such a move would have an extreme impact on the UK television and film industry, which brings in €1.6billion in international rights sales.