05-12-2019

OPINION: FASSOO CEO William Page on Brexit and the Importance of EU for the Media Sector

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William Page, CEO of Fassoo, shares his personal views as both the head of a European project and a UK citizen speaking about the impact that Brexit would have on the relationship between EU and smaller start-ups and on the media sector in general. Fassoo, which uses analytical software and AI to help video content creators reach a wider audience, is a joint venture between a British and a German company. Fassoo is the recipient of funding from the prestigious EU Creative Europe Online Promotion technology call.

On 12 December 2019 the British public will be asked to vote in one of the most important elections in generations. Yet, despite the importance, the key role that the EU plays in helping smaller British startups within the media and entertainment industry and on an even more basic level, in the everyday lives of the British public, seems to have been greatly overlooked.

Impact on the Media and Entertainment Industries

The UK’s audio-visual, creative and cultural sectors, which my business operates in, have benefited immensely from support from the EU, especially from its Creative Europe Fund. It’s no surprise then that most of the sector in the UK have lobbied aggressively for the UK to remain a part of the Creative Europe scheme due to the benefits that we get. Since its launch in 2014, Creative Europe has awarded €89.5 million to 376 UK-based cultural and creative organisations and audio-visual companies, and helped distribute 190 UK films in other European countries.

In 2018 €15.9 million was awarded to support the UK creative and cultural industries through non-repayable grants and the distribution of British films in other countries. Creative Europe’s benefits far exceed the monetary grant funding with a positive knock-on in building international networks, growing audiences and generating jobs and skills elsewhere in the value chain within the UK.  Aside from the economic benefits, the loss of funding to festivals and arts centres would have a knock-on effect to organisations and artists who perform at those venues or produce work with them, but are not necessarily the recipients of EU funding themselves.

There remains considerable doubt as to whether the UK will continue to be able to access EU’s Digital Single Market as this will depend on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU and future trade agreements. The government has not made an assessment on the cost of businesses being unable to access the Digital Single Market. There remains some concern for the arts and cultural sector on what changes may be made to legislative frameworks, many of which are relied upon in the day-to-day work of individuals and organisations. Copyright, for example, is very much integrated in EU laws and regulations with 11 European directives that contain measures concerning copyright that member states are required to incorporate into their domestic laws. These regulations are all essential to enabling British to access and to compete in international markets, depriving us of access to these regulations will limit British competitiveness internationally.

Impact on Businesses

The impacts of a potential ‘Hard-Brexit’ on small businesses are immense. Many small businesses, like my own, operate seamlessly across the EU only needing to lodge one VAT return for 28 countries and will instantly face increased costs and difficulties in accessing these now ‘foreign’ markets. Hiring will become more difficult and expensive with a lack of skilled workers from the UK being available. Small businesses such as my own, which have thrived from the open borders and regulatory support of the EU, will now be at a disadvantage as we will be unable to compete with larger companies so easily.

Already we are seeing many other British startups leave the UK and move to the Continent, with Berlin and Paris being the key cities many are locating to. No doubt in time this will lead to job losses and a decline in Britain’s competitive advantage. Innovation, which is driven by being lean, agile and able to tap into new ideas and resources, will be weakened.  Many startup founders that I speak to are sad to leave the UK but see no choice as a result of Brexit. This leaves British innovation at a distinct disadvantage with one hand tied behind our backs.

The Personal Impact

Aside from the impact on small businesses and on the wider audio-visual sector I think the personal impacts cannot be underestimated.  We take for granted the fact that we can travel and work freely now throughout 27 other countries within the EU. A Conservative led ‘Hard-Brexit’ will deprive millions of British people, like myself, of our rights and freedoms and I feel like I am being discriminated against as these rights will be stripped away from me.  Brexiters repeatedly state that these rights won’t change, but the reality is very different. With the British government potentially taking an increasingly hard-line approach to immigration, even from the EU, it’s likely that EU will respond in the same way. The days when you can live and work wherever you want will likely be over. The spectre of needing visas to travel to Europe could, at least in the short-term, make a reappearance.

About the Author: William Page CEO FASSOO is a British entrepreneur with a diverse background in film, media, technology, innovation and legal. He is the co-founder of FilmDoo, which is a diversified media company utilising disruptive technology to deliver the best in entertainment, cultural and language learning content. He's recently co-led efforts in establishing Fassoo, which is a Berlin based company focused on helping content owners to create and automate their entire metadata infrastructure through the utilisation of A.I. and machine learning technologies. Fassoo is the recipient of funding from the prestigious EU Creative Europe Online Promotion technology call.