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In his first public speech as Britain’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Jeremy Wright on Wednesday at the Edinburgh TV Festival is expected to express the government’s support for the U.K.’s TV sector and its interests, especially the freedom of movement of key talent, amid the Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
In his first major appearance since being appointed July 10 as the fourth culture secretary in two years, the career lawyer who served as attorney general for four years before taking on his current role, is expected to say, according to a copy of highlights of his prepared remarks, that the government’s goal is to ensure in the Brexit talks that the TV and broader media sector “can go from strength to strength.”
“I know that there is concern about how talent will be able to move between the U.K. and the EU after EU exit,” he is expected to add. “Although you will understand that the final outcome is still subject to our future immigration system, I can say that the government well and truly understands how important mobility is for this sector.” And he is expected to conclude: “You have my assurance that I will make the case for the interests of this sector as we seek to resolve [these issues].”
As the U.K. government recently signaled in a white paper, “we are seeking to agree to a framework for mobility with the EU,” Wright will reiterate before adding: “ This will include reciprocal arrangements to allow U.K. nationals to visit the EU without a visa for short-term business reasons, with equivalent arrangements for EU citizens coming to the U.K. And we are working on a broader accord with the EU on culture and education that will, among other things, allow for the temporary movement of goods for major events, tours, exhibitions and productions.”
He is expected to conclude by saying: “Strong public service broadcasters mean a strong broadcasting sector as a whole. … Regardless of our settlement with the EU, broadcasting will remain a vital part of what Britain offers the world. Because we have a broadcasting sector that’s really worth shouting about.”
Wright last month announced that the U.K. government had given final clearance to 21st Century Fox’s bid for full ownership of European pay TV giant Sky, in which Fox already owns a 39 percent stake. NBCUniversal owner Comcast had earlier been cleared for its bid for Sky. In the showdown between the companies, Comcast currently has the high bid, but Fox, which has agreed to sell large parts of its business, including its Sky stake to Walt Disney, has until the second half of September to sweeten its offer.
The previous U.K. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock had unveiled a first draft of so-called undertakings, or conditions, tied to a Fox deal for all of Sky, an updated version of which Wright later unveiled. Little has become known about Wright and his views on the entertainment industry and its future before his trip to Edinburgh.
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