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BBC signs licensing deal with Welsh-language collecting society

By | Published on Monday 26 January 2015

BBC Radio Cymru

Eos, the collecting society for Welsh-language songwriters and publishers, has signed a licensing deal with the BBC bringing to an end a long-running dispute.

As previously reported, many Welsh-language artists were unhappy when, in 2007, UK-wide collecting society PRS altered the way it distributed royalties received from BBC radio stations. The rejig generally left those writing and publishing Welsh-language songs with lower royalty payments.

After a campaign within PRS to reverse the changes failed, about three hundred songwriters withdrew from the society and formed there own rights organisation called Eos. This meant that anyone wanting to play music from this community of writers – which is primarily Welsh-language broadcasters S4C and BBC Cymru – needed to negotiate a new deal, as their existing PRS licence no longer covered this repertoire.

S4C quickly reached an agreement, but the BBC did not, with the Corporation proposing an annual blanket payment in the region of £100,000, while Eos said it thought something closer to £1.5 million was more appropriate.

The dispute meant that Eos pulled its catalogue from BBC Cymru at the start of 2013, which created a not insignificant problem for a radio station that’s obliged to play Welsh language music. Though it wasn’t an ideal situation for the Welsh language music community either, BBC Cymru being a primary outlet for their songs.

After six weeks an interim agreement was reached – the BBC agreed to pay £120,000 a year – while talks for a long-term arrangement continued, but without resolution. Which meant the whole matter went to copyright tribunal, the court that steps in when collective licensing talks cannot reach an agreement on terms.

At the end of 2013 the tribunal basically sided with the BBC, saying it should pay Eos £100,000 a year not including VAT. At the time an Eos spokesman said: “It’s very sad that the tribunal has failed to recognise the value of these rights to the Welsh music industry. It’s clear that the tribunal has tried to keep the status quo as much as possible, rather than respecting the wishes of the Welsh composers and publishers for a fair rate”.

Nevertheless, at that point talks resumed between Eos and the Beeb, and one year on a formal agreement has now been reached, according to the BBC itself. A spokesman for the broadcaster said: “We welcome the fact that we have come to an agreement with Eos and we look forward to working with them”.