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BPI boss warns BBC over streaming service licences

By | Published on Thursday 10 September 2015


“Those pesky BBC bastards had better properly licence this streaming service they are launching-slash-vaguely-thinking-about”, BPI boss Geoff Taylor screamed while shaking his fist at the sky yesterday afternoon. He then stunned the audience at the BPI AGM by burning an effigy of BBC Director General Tony Hall, while chanting in a mysterious language consisting only of One Direction lyrics.

Well, I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t actually there. I was eating a fishfinger sandwich and looking at the sea, if you must know. But it is true that record industry trade group chief Taylor yesterday insisted that the BBC should get all its licences in order before launching any streaming music service.

As previously reported, in a new report this week outlining what it might do under the next licence-fee-enabling Royal Charter to be granted to it by Parliament, the Corporation revealed plans for a new service that would give time-limited on-demand access to music being played on its radio stations. It would be an expansion of the existing BBC Playlister service and would, the report insisted, fill gaps not otherwise being plugged by commercial radio or digital music companies.

Such a proposal throws up various questions, of course, including whether that kind of service would help or hinder the evolving streaming music sector, and how exactly the Beeb might licence such a thing. Could it do everything via collecting societies PPL and PRS For Music – which licence traditional, online and listen-again radio – or would it need to do deals directly with the record companies and/or publishers? And what would those deals look like? And that would, in no small part, depend on whether the music industry believed the extended Playlister service would help or hinder the evolving streaming music sector.

The record industry sees the value of the proposition, Taylor said at his organisation’s big annual gathering, but the Corporation shouldn’t make too many assumptions about how it might be licensed. “The BBC is concerned that it may lose its audience share to the new additional services, particularly the on-demand ones”, he noted, according to Music Ally. “We understand why the BBC would want to be where the audience is, and make sure it is as relevant as possible – particularly to younger music fans”.

But, he went on to stress: “If the BBC is going to launch such a service, then it needs to bring the industry with it. The starting point for some of the BBC’s suggestions around how such a service might work, involved launching such a service but paying no money for it – and I just don’t think that’s viable … There will have to be a sensible deal behind it if it’s going to happen”.

Taylor’s choice of words were interesting in that the BBC’s report implied that the music industry was very much behind its new extended Playlister idea, however early in development that project might be. But Taylor’s speech would suggest that negotiations are already somewhat fractious, despite the music companies having to concurrently bang the drum as a vocal champion of the Beeb’s other output, in the face of government moves to further cut BBC funding and ultimately overhaul the whole licence fee system. So that’s fun.