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How Brexit Could Impact on Documentaries — A Summary of the EDN Submission to the UK Parliament


Following the Brexit decision and a subsequent call for inquiries by the UK Parliament on potential consequences, EDN submitted a paper outlining the impact of Brexit on the documentary sector and creative industries in the UK. This article summarizes the key take-aways of the document.

Photo Credit: Vaughan Leiberum, Creative Commons

In 2016, the Culture Media and Sport Committee in the UK launched an inquiry on the potential impact of Brexit on specific industry sectors in the UK. EDN has responded to the call with a submission which addresses key factors affecting the documentary industry in the UK and its links to the Creative Europe programme. The document has been drafted in collaboration with Whicker's World Foundation, Sheffield Doc/Fest and InFocus Productions. The EDN submission to the inquiry is available here (PDF), but we have decided to also publish a brief summary including the key take aways in this news article.

The EDN submission in a nutshell

Why do documentaries matter? What is their impact on British culture, politics, economy, democracy, freedom of speech and other areas of the British society? These are some of the fundamental questions from which our submission kicks off to look into the state of the documentary industry in the United Kingdom. In addtion to summarizing the pros and cons of the Brexit, the document further features key insights into the scope of support for the UK documentary sector through EU initiatives (e.g. the Creative Europe MEDIA programme), ultimately recommending that Britain continues as a full member of the Creative Europe programme in a post Brexit UK.

The role of documentaries in the UK:

British documentaries are part of Britain’s £11bn “film, TV, video, radio and photography” economy and have considerable impact on public policy, attitudes, economy and careers

British made feature documentaries accounted for over 20% of feature films made in the UK (although less than 2% of their cost)

Funding for documentaries in the UK is in decline. The BBC Storyville budget, for example, decreased from £2.3m (2002) to only £850,000 per year in 2016

British TV documentaries rely on international co-production support and grants. Example: Planet Earth 11 was a co-production between the BBC, BBC America, ZDF (Germany), Tencent (China) and France Télévisions which took a large team at BBC Worldwide to put in place

• Britain lacks major public funding for film and documentaries. Example: In 2015, the British Film Institute provided grants worth £800,000 versus €51 million of production subsidies available in Denmark (provided by the Danish Film Institute in the same period)


How the EU supports documentary filmmaking in the UK:

• in 2014 and 2015, the UK received more support through Creative Europe than it cost to be part of the programme, underlining Britain’s pivotal role in Europe’s creative industries

in 2016, Sheffield Doc Fest's MeetMarket and Alternate Realities Market received Creative Europe grants of nearly €130,000 — a 37% contribution to their cost

• in addition to supporting various documentary training programmes in the UK, Creative Europe also pays for a large number of initiatives designed to support documentary filmmakers and introduce them to funders in Europe

in 2016, Creative Europe awarded more than €730,000 to UK film and TV producers for the development and production of documentary projects

the production company Brook Lapping (makers of Inside Obama’s White House and many other award winning series) states that “without funding from the MEDIA Programme of the European Union our output would have ceased 12 years ago"

further benefits for documentaries from Britains's EU membership include VAT exemptions for production companies trading in Europe, ease of doing co-production deals with broadcasters, ease of hiring European documentary talent, to name just a few among the many advantages of the membership


Recommendations & conclusions:

• to remain a full member of the Creative Europe programme due to its crucial role for docs in the UK

• to create new documentary film funds in the UK to incentivise British & European filmmakers to create documentaries that are so vital to democracy

to maintain continued access to the European labour market through free movement of people

• the UK should play a key role in shaping the future of the next Creative Europe programme which replaces the current one in 2020 and beyond

The document "How Brexit Could Impact on Documentaries" can be downloaded here (PDF). The official submission on the website of the UK Parliament can also be viewed here.



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