What does leaving the EU mean for culture, media and sport?

5 July 2016

This briefing is largely based on the briefing by the House of Commons Library ‘EU referendum: impact of an EU exit in key UK policy areas’. The opinions and judgements it contains are theirs. We expect to review and add to these articles periodically as events develop.

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One of the main issues for Britain’s cultural and creative sectors will be whether or not they lose funding when we leave the EU. The European Commission’s Creative Europe programme currently gives considerable support to these sectors and has a budget of around €1.46 billion from 2014 to 2020.

However, Creative Europe is open to non-EU countries. The UK could potentially negotiate to continue its participation in Creative Europe after it leaves the EU.


The European Union plays a wide-ranging role in regulating broadcasting.

The areas it covers include controls on advertising and sponsorship, with a ban on sponsoring news and current affairs programmes, and a right of reply for people whose legitimate interests have been damaged by the broadcasting of incorrect facts. The EU also has rules about protecting children from pornography and violence as well as a quota for work by independent European producers.

These regulations are part of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The European Commission has proposed an update to this law in response to changes in the way viewers receive media content, and the variety of different platforms and devices they can use.

The UK government, in its response to these proposed changes, said that it regarded the Directive as a “success story”.

Nonetheless, when the UK leaves the EU, the government might choose to look again at these European broadcasting requirements.

The House of Commons Library says that the extent to which traditional broadcast rules can or should be applied to new media, such as the internet, is a question the UK government will have to address in or out of the EU.

Some UK copyright law comes from the EU. The 1993 Directive on Copyright Duration, for example, meant that authors’ rights across the EU had to be standardised so that they provided the same level of copyright protection as in the member country with the highest protection.

In 2015 the European Commission announced plans to update EU copyright law. As part of this it proposes to allow people with a subscription to on-demand online content to continue using the services while temporarily in another member country. The UK government supported these plans.

How much, if any, EU copyright law applies to the UK once we leave the EU will depend on the deal negotiated by the government.

Otherwise, copyright law is made up of a series of linked international agreements, like the Berne Convention and the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty. The House of Commons Library says that the government is unlikely to unpick these international agreements once it leaves the EU, since they bring reciprocal benefits to UK creators and rights-holders.

Single Digital Market

The changes to copyright law are part of the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy, which also includes areas such as  e-commerce, consumer protection, telecommunications, VAT, audiovisual media, data protection, cybersecurity and e-government.

The government has previously said membership of the Digital Single Market could increase the size of the UK economy by 2% and outlined it as a “key priority”. It also said the programme would offer “huge potential for jobs and growth” and “benefit citizens, as shown by our recent deal within the European Council on roaming”.

Members of the European Economic Area will be affected by any laws passed on the Digital Single Market, as being in the EEA means being part of the single market generally.


The UK receives EU funding for sports programmes, such as grassroots projects, and for combatting cross-border challenges, like match-fixing, doping, violence and racism. Depending on the eventual deal that the government negotiates, sports organisations could also lose Erasmus+ funding (see our piece on Higher Education).

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