Artificial Intelligence

A critical area of European policy brainstorming and regulation which UK drops out of post-Brexit is building the infrastructure needed for AI to develop inclusively. This must also guarantee environmental protection, fair competition, a functioning digital public sphere and deal with discrimination issues.  

In relation to the restrictive impact of recommendation algorithms on the “discoverability” of films and documentaries UKCCD urges the DCMS Select Committee on public service broadcasting (see recent post) to ensure diversity of choice by including 30% of local programming in strap lines and catalogues. This would mean translating the EU Audio-visual Media Services Directive, which the current government supported in 2018, into British law.

At European level, The European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (ECCD), will be lobbying the European Parliament and the European Commission to take due account of cultural diversity in any future recommendations they make.

This year MEPs on the European Parliament Legal Affairs committee alone have written 4 draft reports on AI.

We welcome MEP, Iban Garcia Blanco’s reference in his draft report to the need to uphold cultural and linguistic diversity, and await two opinions from the EP’s Culture Committee.

UKCCD is monitoring developments in Europe to advise on and safeguard our options for cultural diversity and inclusion in the UK. Digital infrastructures cannot be left to the commercial drivers of surveillance capitalism or the stranglehold of populist authoritarian governments.

‘The networked society of today lacks an infrastructure designed to enhance ‘individual inclusion, personal development, environmental protection, fair competition and a functioning digital public sphere’, as well as ‘access to data and services such as cloud services, mobility platforms or a search index’—in other words, ‘the common good’.



Surviving COVID 19

The cultural sector is one of the worst hit by the lockdown yet rarely gets mentioned in coverage of the economic shutdown in spite of the fact that its contribution to the UK economy equals that of the financial sector.

The evidence is stark as shown in a recent survey by the Creative Industries Federation.  The 2,000 responses revealed 62% of freelancers and 42% of businesses estimate that their monthly turnover has fallen by 100% since the outbreak of Covid-19, and 62% of all respondents are facing considerable or very considerable cash flow issues. 75% of freelancers are worried that the SEISS grant payments will not be available until June. A fifth of those surveyed told us they would not survive for more than 4 weeks. Furthermore, the survey revealed that 1 in 7 creative organisations believe they can last only until the end of April on existing financial reserves. Only half think their reserves will last beyond June.

The Arts Council’s emergency funding of £90 million, though welcome, is a drop in the ocean. It is estimated that the Arts Council’s 828 NPOs alone will suffer a loss of £750 million by January 2021, almost double their core funding of £407 million. Ironically, those who have been following government advice to minimise their grant funding will be hardest hit. Beyond this is the overall impact on lottery funding which depends heavily on retail sales.

No wonder that The Economist finds that households employed in media/ culture/entertainment are the most concerned by the situation – see report by IHS Markit on IHS Markit UK Household Finance Index.

A letter has been sent to Rt Hon Oliver Dowden and Rt Hon Rishi Sunak urging the government to recognise the sector and to do more to prevent its collapse.

Pressure from trades unions like BECTU, Musicians Union and Equity has been strong in favour of support for freelancers, many of whom had hitherto fallen between the cracks of government support schemes.

The marginalisation of culture is widespread and the International Federation of Cultural Coalitions the IFCCD and several of its allies have just released a statement calling on UN agencies, governments and other stakeholders to support culture in the context of the pandemic. You will find it online on our IFCCD website. The IFCCD is also compiling a dossier to monitor what is being done by national governments.

UNESCO organised a virtual meeting of Ministers of Culture on Wednesday, 22 April to address the crisis and European cultural organisations have forced change in the EU response to the situation by calling for an amendment to the European Parliament resolution which now contains para 43 drawing attention to the plight of the arts/culture sectors. Shockingly, reference to culture or the cultural sector had been absent previously.

Whatever else is remembered of this strange lockdown experience, the outpouring of creative work on-line – orchestras and choirs performing social and long distance, dancers streaming their rehearsals, individuals turning confinement into comedy – will be remembered – Lest Government forget!



Brexit’s Impact on arts, culture and the creative industries

Over 95% of those involved in arts/culture and the creative industries voted to Remain in the EU and warned about the Brexit threat to artistic mobility and cultural exchange/partnerships, cultural diversity and the potential difficulty with creative exports from UK, particularly film and television programmes.

Listed below are key areas of concern. On the Move has also compiled an invaluable and comprehensive list of websites and information for the sector here

UK/EU trade agreement: The audio-visual sector (AV) will not be in the agreement as the EU already excludes AV from all trade agreements in line with the UNESCO Convention 2005 on the diversity of cultural expressions. This has implications for the UK AV industry and their ability to export to the EU. You can find the relevant UKCCD submissions under our resources here, section 2019.

UK/US trade agreement: If the UK government does not expressly exclude AV from any agreement with the US then the EU will shut its doors to British works being considered European works with severe export implications for British producers/creators. It would mean that British films/TV drama/documentary would likely not be bought by various TV channels in other EU Member States to fill quotas under the AVMS directive.

Revised AVMS directive: The UK government should implement the revised 2018 AVMS directive. Its “Country of Origin” rules allow UK TV channels to beam signals across the EU.

The UK is relying on membership of the Council of Europe Convention on Television. However, it is no longer regarded as a satisfactory legal basis to beam TV signals from UK to rest of Europe as it lacks an enforcement mechanism and has not been updated for the digital era to include internet platforms unlike the AVMS directive.

In anticipation of difficulties, a number of players like Sony, NBC have already relocated/opened offices elsewhere in the EU.

2019 Copyright Directive: The government has given no guarantee that it will implement this directive. Therefore, UK Music manifesto is asking the government to outline a pathway for implementing this directive on behalf of all musicians/music makers/producers etc.



Where will the new European Parliament stand on the TTIP? There are now concerns about its impact on health, environment, workers’ rights, accountability, as well as diversity of cultural expression. With a new European Parliament now discussing committee membership, and pending a new Commission President and new Commission we have to wait to know what line the new INTA committee will take on TTIP negotiation in the Parliament.

Denis Macshane, former Minister of State for Europe, has written:

“The TTIP will face new challenges as the anti-system MEPs who have been elected can make common cause across a left-right divide and in alliance with mainstream MEPs against a transatlantic trade agreement predicated on eliminating protections in national customs and practices in sensitive areas like health care or cultural and creative industries.”

What place for women in today’s film industry? The EU Audiovisual Observatory held a meeting on 17 May at Cannes “GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FILM”. Also in the Guardian

And visit the site for the European Women’s Audiovisual Network, who are launching the research needed to get the data to change EU policy

Getting culture into the UN’s Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Culture is much more than just an instrument for change. Diversity of creative work and the status of the artist is central to developing thriving, diverse societies.

UKCCD has joined IFACCA, Agenda 21 for Culture, ICOMOS, Culture Action Europe and others to campaign for targets on culture to be included. Sign our petition at



Welcome to the UKCCD blog which will take our culture watch to Europe and the developing world and focus the way international policy is critical to developing culture in this country. A fraction of this material reaches most practitioners; almost none gets proper coverage in the weekly press. Carole Tongue, Chair, and Holly Aylett, Director, will blog monthly to cover EU and international issues central to the aims of UNESCO’s Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, 2005.

More information and documents will be found on the main UKCCD site.

Creators, cultural ministers and unions have mobilised in the key struggle to uphold the principle of a cultural exception in the forthcoming negotiations on the USA-EU Free Trade Agreement. The European Parliament has voted in favour by 381 to 191 against with 17 abstentions.

On Friday 14 June, the EU Council of Trade Ministers met and agreed to an”audiovisual exception” in the EU Commission mandate for negotiating a free trade agreement with the US. This is very good news.

This did not stop President Barroso responding and referring to those calling for an exception as “reactionaries”. A position he has since rolled back on.
Further more EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht continues to emphasise that he wishes to talk about audiovisual matters during the course of negotiations with the American administration.

This is without precedent. A EU Commission President and a Commissioner effectively challenging the will of the elected Ministers in the Council and elected MEPs.

In a press statement the European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity have responded:

The coalitions would like to express their thanks to governments and heads of States, to national parliaments and to the European Parliament who have, with great determination, endeavoured to win this victory for cultural exception. They are grateful to all personalities, filmmakers and artists who have mobilized themselves all over the continent to say NO to a Europe which would no longer support its culture and would abandon its identity to commercial interests only.

In this context, the coalitions are shocked to hear Commissioner De Gucht when he declares that he is ready and willing to open discussions on audiovisual with the Americans if they wish to do so. They strongly encourage him to fully respect the mandate that the States, which have complete democratic legitimacy, have given him and which formally exclude the audiovisual from the mandate. Should he wish to still discuss this, he will have to come back again in front of the European Council of ministers to obtain their authorization. Which is precisely what they denied him on June 14th.
Moreover, the coalitions are scandalized by the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso’s statement this morning, calling those who support cultural diversity “reactionaries” and people “who do not understand the benefits globalization of exchanges represent”. They invite him to fully respect European democracy, of which States and the European Parliament are repositories, even when these institutions do not share his ideas. A great political leader should never depart from such a position.

After this victory for cultural diversity, the European coalitions urge the European Commission not to try and circumvent this democratic decision and to fully commit to it. This will mean to putting an end to suspicion and to the permanent re-questioning of the cultural policies adopted by the European Member States.

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers Trade Policy committee between Member State representatives on 24th May the European Commission succeeded in splitting support by proposing a compromise which would include cultural services in the mandate for trade negotiations with particular restrictions – “red lines”.
The red lines are:

1. The existing EU policies and instruments and corresponding measures at Member States’ level shall not be touched on during negotiations;
2. The existing national measures to regulate the audiovisual sector and support domestic and European content shall not be touched on during negotiations;
3. We shall maintain our ability to continue adapting and developing meaningful policies for cultural diversity, both at EU and Member States’ level.

The majority have been satisfied by these red lines and only 3 (France, Greece and Hungary) are still calling for a formal exclusion. Italy, Poland, Belgium, Romania and Bulgaria are seen as the countries that are most susceptible to changing their position to come back to the exclusion position.

By failing to exclude audiovisual services, audiovisual services will be covered by the chapter on services. The Commission’s red lines will have absolutely minimal weight in this context. And audiovisual services will be subject to the same horizontal elements as all other services. Whatever regulation exists will be observed but future policy for new services will be up for negotiation. Since so many developments on-line are in flux effectively the red line offers no protection. A definition will also be required of “ability to continue adapting and developing meaningful policies for cultural diversity” – and there will be considerable pressure to limit this definition.

This is a context where:

Google has 85 % of the search market
Google share of online video distribution is dominant through YouTube
Google has 87% share of online advertisting market
Amazon has over 70% of the ebook market in the EU (even higher in UK)
A small number of players enjoy dominance in the VOD market eg Netflix

This dominance gives these players the capacity to make the choice of film/tv programme catalogue, deliver distribution, control search
of online high value audiovisual content. Amazon in the case of books. Already the Netflix catalogue is overwhelmingly US content.
These players are at present subject to Art 13 of AVMS directive althought this has not been fully implemented as yet.

They are all lobbying the US administration, Member States’governments and EU authorities to include audiovisual in the negotiations in order to ensure that online audiovisual services are classed as “Information and/or commuication” and therefore not liable to any of the rules applied to traditional broadcasting. This would in effect rule out the EU revising the AVMS directive and fully implementing Article 13 which calls for online AV services to include EU films/programmes in their catalogues and to promote EU creative works online.

In effect inclusion of audiovisual services in the negotiations could lead to Member States and the EU no longer being able to draw up AV support programmes or legislative provisions to support the broadcast off and online of local programming.

UK policy persists in regarding the advances made by the European Union in regulating to support production, distribution, Public Service remits for broadcasting, proportionate contribution by large internet companies etc…as a francophone concern. In fact these policies underpin diversity of expression from which all UK citizens and creators have benefited, and the principle of sustaining diversity of expressions is one to which the UK Government has signed up under the UNESCO Convention, 2005 and through its membership of the European Union and its cultural strategies.

BSAC is in favour of the status quo which is to have an “audiovisual exception” for traditional film/broadcast services. Even this position is being ignored by the UK government.

CISAC, The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composer, CISAC adopts a resolution on 6th June to maintain the status quo on cultural exception including for the online world.

On June 10th the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity and others hosted a day event with speakers including Costas Gavras, President of the French Cinematheque, Pascal Albrechtskirchinger, ZDF delegate to the Eruopean Institutions, Nuno Fonseca, Advisor to the Audiovisual and Cinema Institutie in Portugal, Carole Tongue, Former MEP and Chair of UKCCD.
In a digital world where the internet is not contributing to EU film it was felt that rules could be necessary to avoid death of EU film industry. Views were universally expressed that new laws to tax internet players for investment in creation could be undermined or ruled out of order if audiovisual is made subject to free trade rules. The conversation also referred to music and books where by 2020 50% of books will be read online. What will happen to policies like the “prix fixe” in these circumstances ? The debate was broadened to interlocking themes:
1. non payment of taxation 2. data protection, value of data 3. protection of IP 4. rules to support cultural diversity (More documents on UKCCD website)

There is also a lack of transparency in these negotiations.
Groups on both sides of the Atlantic are mobilising in defence of citizen’s rights and accountability in relation to EU-USA Free Trade Agreement. With the partnership aiming to align some EU and US trade laws, the European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC) is concerned that the agreement will water down the existing consumer protection rules they have been fighting hard for on both sides of the Atlantic
“While in the US there is an industry advisory committee officially entitled to access the texts, but without any civil society counterpart, no such structure exists at all in the EU,” Monique Goyens, Director-General of BEUC told EuroActiv recently.
“Trying to eliminate a big swath of regulatory differences via a trade deal would have a democratic cost because you’re taking away a power from the electorate,” Ben Beachy, research director at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said according to the news agency Reuters.


Commitment by the EU member states to maintaining levels of support for .07 of GDP level of funding for official development assistance (ODA) was confirmed by Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner responsible for Development. Confirmation still needed by EU Environment Ministers and the EU General Council but it is hoped that the FAC decision together with the fact that 85% of European citizens believe Europe should continue helping developing countries will be persuasive.
Culture and creative activity is still regarded instrumentally and rarely appears in the programmes of the European national development agencies, which is also evident in the current European strategy, Agenda for Change (2011). The significance of creative activity and diversity of expression to the development of strong citizenship and mutual understanding is still marginalised even where an economic case can be made.

Artists Mobility
There has been an open EU consultation on the Shengen visa system, infamous for the way it impacts on the mobility of artists and culture professionals particularly moving between North and South and vice versa. The obstacles third country national artists face when they try to enter the EU’s Schengen area, as well as the impact of the EU’s short-term visa policy to the culture sector (for the artists, artistic work and production, inviting organisations, cultural diversity, revenue, etc.) is well known but the response rate has been slim so organizations should be proactive.

Submissions closed on June 17th. To see report contact:

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