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BBC/Eos dispute goes to Copyright Tribunal

By | Published on Wednesday 25 September 2013

BBC Radio Cymru

The ongoing dispute between the BBC and Welsh-language collecting society Eos has reached Copyright Tribunal, which is never dull. As previously reported, a group of Welsh language songwriters and publishers withdrew their collective catalogues from UK-wide rights organisation PRS For Music at the start of the year.

The songwriters and publishers had been in conflict with PRS since 2007 when it changed the way it distributed the monies it collected from the BBC’s two Welsh radio stations – BBC Wales and the Welsh-language BBC Cymru – for the use of its member’s music by the radio services. The Welsh-language music publishing community argued that the change had had a massive negative impact on their public performance income just as said revenue was becoming crucial, as record sale income continued to slump.

The BBC was quickly caught in the crossfire, though once the angry publishers had withdrawn from PRS and set up Eos the Beeb was fully drawn into the dispute. And for six weeks earlier this year Eos withdrew its members’ content from the BBC entirely, forcing the Corporation to cut back considerably on the amount of Welsh language music it played on its Welsh language station.

An interim agreement was then reached, which – according to BBC News – saw the BBC agree to pay Eos £120,000 a year for access to its members’ repertoire. However, Eos is pushing for something closer to £1.5 million a year, presumably arguing that the Corporation spends nearly £16 million annually on its Welsh-language content, and music makes up a significant part of BBC Cymru’s output.

With neither side able to agree on rates – the BBC actually argues that it is already overpaying at £120,000 a year – the matter has gone to Copyright Tribunal, a special court that considers disputes in the collective licensing domain. The main hearing on the matter is taking place this week. It remains to be seen what the Tribunal rules, and whether the Welsh publishers get the big pay day they think they deserve.