BBC Triggers Its Brexit Plan In Order to Keep Broadcasting to the EU

(Bloomberg) -- The BBC is moving some of its broadcast licenses to the Netherlands so it can keep transmitting across the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.K. licenses relate to the British Broadcasting Corp.’s commercial arm that beams hit shows including “Doctor Who” and “Eastenders” into other EU countries, said the people, who asked not to be named as the matter is confidential. The permits will no longer be valid if Britain leaves the bloc in nine days’ time without a withdrawal agreement.

Political deadlock has raised the risk of a chaotic departure, with Theresa May now seeking help from opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to strike a Brexit deal acceptable to Parliament. The BBC joins international broadcasters such as Discovery Inc., Viacom Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal in relocating licenses elsewhere in the EU.

“As an international broadcaster operating a number of commercial channels in the EU we are ensuring the necessary arrangements are in place to continue operating those channels in any changed regulatory environment,” a spokesman for BBC Studios said in a statement.

It said the change would mean relocating a limited number of staff responsible for editorial decisions at those channels.

The U.K. is Europe’s broadcasting hub, home to more channels than any other EU member state. International media companies collectively spend about 1 billion pounds ($1.32 billion) annually in the U.K. on things like content, production facilities and technology, according to research by media analysis firm Oliver & Ohlbaum commissioned by lobby group the Commercial Broadcasters Association.

Through BBC Studios, the BBC makes some channels available elsewhere in the EU, such as BBC Entertainment, which carries reruns of shows such as “Bargain Hunt” and “Antiques Roadshow.” The BBC generates hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue from EU markets, according to the U.K.’s telecommunication regulator Ofcom.

EU rules say broadcasters need to have their head office, a significant part of their workforce or a satellite uplink in the country to qualify for a license there.

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