NEP’s Simon Moorhead talks Brexit and pandemic challenges to the OB business in Europe
Brexit and the pandemic have been two significant pressure points on the outside broadcast businesses over the last 18 months. Here, we talk to Simon Moorhead, managing director at NEP UK Broadcast Services, about how these two major events have affected the way his business now works day to day, and how NEP UK is overcoming these challenges.
What are the key ways in which Brexit is affecting the way you run your business throughout Europe today, and why?
Our overriding mission is always to navigate any and all challenges to deliver the highest quality services to our partners. In this sense, Brexit has become another challenge that we navigate on behalf of our partners.
NEP is a global network, with a sizeable and significant presence throughout Europe, so there is always the ability to harness and leverage our geographic footprint, scale and expertise to deliver in any situation.
However, there are challenges as a consequence of Brexit that NEP UK faces when operating within Europe. An example includes the movement of goods from the UK into Europe and vice versa. We now have the administrative coordination and added expenses of carnets and commercial invoices to move equipment around.
We also have reduced flexibility in terms of the shipping of replacement equipment. The ability to move equipment from various separate projects within Europe becomes more cumbersome when there are no discrete carnets for each separate piece of equipment. This is where we harness and leverage our geographic footprint to provide a more localised broadcast services solution with the associated technical expertise.
The movement of people has also become a new challenge which means that our ability for NEP UK to deliver within Europe requires more coordination. We allocate resources to research, collate accurate information and provide updates and guidance on each location. This takes into consideration identifying the right visas, as most countries will have a wide range of options. The specifics of the job, crew and duration of time in the country are all factors.
What major sporting events that you have recently worked on have been more challenging than they should have been because of Brexit? Why and how, and what was the impact on your role in the production?
Events that have required enhanced coordination include the UEFA European Football Championship, the Women’s Tennis Association tournament and Formula One. However, we have been well-supported through clients facilitating sport governing body exemptions and host country support.
In addition to the added requirements for carnets, commercial invoices and visas, it takes additional time to compile information to produce shipping paperwork and customs clearance documentation. However, we have navigated all of these challenges to ensure that we deliver for our partners. NEP is truly a global network, meaning we can access equipment and expertise locally, so an urgent requirement for additional resources, for example, is easily accessed from our local presence.
Is Brexit affecting your bottom line? Is it costing you money or making you money?
The challenges associated with Brexit can produce additional costs to business, for example the increased labour resources to process and administer these new requirements. We now have a greater operations and engineering requirement to prepare and document the equipment manifests for shipping and customs.
In terms of the movement of people, we engage with specialist legal counsel to ensure absolute immigration compliance coupled with the visa requirements. There are multiple visa types and identifying the correct ones is of the utmost importance.
How are Brexit and COVID adding to sustainability issues?
NEP has a clear environmental objective, which we share with our partners. We always consider sustainability in these decisions and what we can do to be environmentally friendly.
In terms of Brexit and its direct correlation to sustainability, NEP and our partners are constantly having to look at other available options such as using local (in country) NEP resources or the option of utilising our network of NEP Production Centres and NEP Data Centres to facilitate the requirements as a remote production. If we can’t facilitate the requirements in a traditional methodology because of the constraints, we have to be innovative and practical in finding or making the solution.
COVID-19 has presented challenges to our mission for environmentally sustainable behaviours. Where we had eradicated single-use plastics on site, we no longer can use communal water fountains. We now utilise Perspex isolation shields within OB truck positions, gallery positions and within the administrative areas; again an unavoidable increase in plastics where we had been eradicating their use.
We also have the new order of PPE and the waste that this produces, for example, PPE masks, sanitisation gels, sanitisation cleaning wipes, lateral flow tests and associated items. These items require us to put further thought into recycling, but this is all part of NEP’s overall commitment to sustainability.
How will Brexit continue to affect your business going forward? Is this just the way things are now?
As a business, we have had to adapt and navigate to continue to deliver and serve our partners’ needs. That’s not going to change. I believe that this will continue to be the new normal for the UK post- Brexit and we are positioned to continue to navigate it. If there is a simplification of the systems and procedures for the movement of goods and people that would help significantly.
On top of Brexit issues, we have the ongoing pandemic. How is this adding to the challenges you’re facing with Brexit, or not?
The pandemic has brought its own set of challenges. Our mission and purpose is to navigate these challenges and to use our creativity, innovative mindset and overall expertise to find unique solutions for our partners and their specific set of challenges and objectives. Our overriding concern is always the health, safety, wellbeing and welfare of our staff, crews, partners and all individuals who we interact with. We are constantly assessing risks and adapting to protocols to ensure COVID-safe working environments.
Keeping accurate records of movement enables our ability to trace movements and interactions of individuals and this has been of the highest priority to keep everyone safe. We have had to closely monitor and understand the implications of the constantly changing status of countries from green, amber and red alerts and the consequences of a country status change while our people are working there.
However, with challenge comes opportunity. In spite of the challenges NEP UK has experienced as a consequence of the pandemic, our creative and innovative teams have been incredibly resourceful in working with our partners. They have created, innovated, tested and deployed new systems, workflows and solutions to not only find a way to deliver our partners’ productions, but to facilitate new ways of working that improve and raise the qualitative threshold.
What key changes are you seeing to your business on a daily basis because of Brexit and COVID, and do you expect these changes to stay?
While I continue to see the challenges of Brexit remaining for some time, I believe we are now starting to see the challenges of the pandemic regress, and the roll out of the vaccination programme in the UK has certainly enabled that. The removal of restrictions and the wider opening of the UK economy is starting to create greater momentum for live events, particularly sport and entertainment, and the future is starting to look a lot brighter. Ultimately, we need to see a similar programme and level of uptake for vaccinations across the globe, to help get us all back to a fully connected world.