CONOR POPE, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Irish subscribers to Sky Television could see dozens of channels including Disney and Discovery disappear as the deadline for Brexit comes closer with no sign of a deal on the horizon.
According to a report in the Guardian, Sky in the UK has written to television providers in the US giving them a deadline of the end of the year to resolve post-Brexit licensing plans or risk being taken off its service.
The letter says Sky needs details of its channel partner’s licensing plans to make sure it adheres to European broadcasting regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Many US media companies including Discovery, Disney, the MTV owner Viacom, and WarnerMedia's Turner have European broadcasting hubs in the UK and operate under British licences, which means they can broadcast across the EU.
However, if the British government does not reach a deal to keep EU-wide broadcast rights post-Brexit, these companies may have to relocate parts of their businesses as well as their TV licensing arrangements to other EU countries so they can continue to transmit across the rest of Europe.
Channels that use Sky's UK service would then need two licences to continue to legally broadcast in both the UK and Ireland with companies who do not get such licences unable to be legally aired in Ireland by Sky UK.
Discovery, which is the biggest broadcaster to use the UK as a hub with licences for more than 100 TV channels has been looking at locations for a second European licensing and broadcasting hub in the event of no deal. Ireland is one option although Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Estonia and Malta are also seen as contenders.
Industry souurces played down the risk Irish viewers will lose access to channels and described the letter sent by the company as an “administrative exercise” designed to make broadcasters aware that, if there is a no deal scenario, then they’ll need to make sure they are covered to broadcast in both the UK and Europe.
The Irish Times contacted Sky and a spokeswoman said the company "continually work with our partner channels to ensure they have the licences they need to broadcast."