|MONDAY 17 JANUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The future of the BBC was back in the spotlight this weekend as it emerged that the UK government will force budget cuts at the broadcaster by freezing the current licence fee, while Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries basically announced on Twitter that the Beeb would have to find a new way of funding its activities by 2027, when its current Royal Charter expires... [READ MORE]|
Future of the BBC back in the spotlight as licence fee set to be frozen and then abolished
It's expected that the government will soon announce a freeze of the TV licence fee for the next two years. The fee will then likely be increased again between 2024 and 2027, though even those increases may not be in line with inflation. Therefore, in real terms, the BBC's licence fee income will decline, meaning it could have to find savings of more than £2 billion over the next six years.
Meanwhile, Dorries took to Twitter to share a Mail On Sunday article on those licence fee cuts, and added: "This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content".
There has been much debate in recent years about the future of the licence fee and the different ways in which the BBC should be funded long-term. It is true that a generation is coming through who are much less likely to tune in to linear TV and radio stations like those operated by the BBC, and who aren't necessarily interacting with the broadcaster's website, iPlayer and Sounds app either.
However, many fear that a radical overhaul of BBC funding - for example, replacing the compulsory licence fee with a voluntary subscriptions system - would result in a significant slump in the Corporation's income, and therefore result in many services having to be shut down or sold off to commercial players.
That would have a big knock-on effect for the British creative industries at large, and especially the music industry, which relies on the BBC's music programmes and radio networks to reach both mainstream and niche audiences, to help promote and support new talent and more specialist genres, and - through PPL and PRS licences - as a not insignificant revenue stream.
While some sort of overhaul is inevitable - and that is likely to result in yet more tense negotiations between the BBC and government as the licence-fee enabling Royal Charter is renegotiated in the run up to 2027 - the current government seems particularly likely to push for a new model that results in a majorly cut-back public broadcaster.
That's partly because Conservative politicians are generally much more sympathetic to commercial media businesses - including other TV networks, radio companies and news providers - when they complain about the BBC using its unique funding model, vast archive and global brand to compete at the more mainstream end of media and entertainment.
Some of those complaints are legit, of course. Even in the BBC loving music community some have been frustrated at the Corporation's dabblings as a festival promoter and event organiser, which can see it competing head-on with independent players on that side of the music industry.
Though, at the same time, commercial media owners tend to object at the BBC being involved in anything but the most alternative and niche of programming.
There are also more overtly political reasons for Tory politicians wanting to cut back the power of the Beeb, of course. Conservative ministers and MPs are always convinced that the BBC - the workforce of which, for various reasons, does tend to be more liberal and left-leaning - is constantly pursuing a lefty anti-Tory agenda through its news and other output.
Though, it's worth noting, every political group of every political persuasion is convinced that the BBC is against them. Which suggests, on balance, that the BBC's political output is actually quite balanced. But it tends to be aggrieved Tory politicians who reckon that the solution to any perceived bias is to slash the BBC's funding.
And anti-BBC sentiment is especially strong in the current UK government. Partly because the post-Brexit Conservative leadership is dominated by the right-wing of the party, which is always the most anti-Beeb. And partly because ministers are sick of being portrayed in BBC reports as being a bunch of clueless, inept, immoral, corrupt, unethical, unscrupulous, immoral, arrogant, ignorant, bullshitting motherfuckers. Which is an accurate portrayal, of course. But still annoying for them.
Some also reckon that tough talking in relation to the BBC is seen by Dorries et al as a good way to distract back-bench MPs and the Conservative Party membership from all the party-gate and corruption scandals currently plaguing Bullshitter-In-Chief 'Boris' Johnson and his cabinet of mediocre minds. Which could mean lots of BBC bashing in the months ahead.
None of which creates a great environment in which to consider, negotiate and agree a long-term future for the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Although, of course, the current political top-guard could be well gone before the real work on the BBC's post-2027 future begins. Which means the more pressing concern is the licence fee freeze that could be confirmed as soon as this week, and what impact that will have on the BBC's output - including its music output - in the next few years.
Houston Police Department seeks more Astroworld footage via new website
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the crowd surge, which took place as Travis Scott performed his headline set, on the evening of 5 Nov, at the 2021 edition of the festival he founded. The city's police force have been investigating the incident ever since.
In a statement on Twitter on Friday, the police department announced it had teamed up with the FBI to set up a website via which new evidence could be submitted.
It said: "Houston Police Department have already viewed countless hours of video evidence as part of our ongoing investigation into the Astroworld event".
"To ensure that we have captured all possible evidence for a complete investigation", it went on, "we have partnered with the Federal Bureau Of Investigation for additional technical assistance. The FBI has created a website where the public can upload any photos or video taken at the concert venue".
"Specifically, we are seeking any photos or videos of the main venue area from 8pm to 11pm. The website to upload your photos or video is fbi.gov/astroworld".
In the days following the Astroworld tragedy, some questioned whether Houston PD was best positioned to run the criminal investigation into the incident, given it was also policing the festival. However, the American city's police chief, Troy Finner, has insisted no independent investigation is required.
And on Friday the police department stressed that while the FBI had set up this new website for submitting evidence, it was still in charge of the criminal investigation. "HPD continues to lead this investigation", the tweeted statement continued, "and we appreciated the assistance from our federal partners at the FBI".
Some of the lawyers working on civil litigation in relation to the Astroworld crowd surge have criticised the Houston PD for taking so long to set up a website for submitting footage from the event, although - they add - law firms working on the Astroworld lawsuits have probably already gathered much of the evidence that the police investigation requires.
Dr Darrin Porcher - a former New York police lieutenant and now academic who is advising one of those law firms - told Rolling Stone that Houston PD should have more quickly utilised the resources of the local FBI field office.
"For the life of me, I can't understand why this wasn't done immediately", he told the music magazine, "because they clearly understood the police department only has so many people. You're conducting an investigation with 50,000 people at one location. It's clear, and it's apparent, that the Houston Police Department didn't have the ability to get this done, and there's nothing wrong with that. They didn't drive it as quickly as they should have".
Meanwhile Alex Hilliard, one of the key lawyers at the law firm Porcher is advising, added: "The plaintiff lawyers have been diligently obtaining all of this information, so to the extent that prosecutors need it and are asking for it, it's already within organised, available portals that exist in a lot of the firms. In the next couple of weeks, there will be a lot of information provided to prosecutors to establish that there was absolute criminal activity which occurred in this case".
Scott and the festival's promoters - Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary - are facing hundreds of lawsuits in relation to the Astroworld tragedy that between them are seeking billions of dollars in damages.
Yet another legal filing in the long-running Shake It Off song-theft legal battle
Legal reps for Sean Hall and Nathan Butler filed new papers with the court on Friday urging the judge to knock back Swift's most recent and seemingly final attempt to get the case kicked out of court via summary judgement.
Hall and Butler accuse Swift of ripping off their 2001 song 'Playas Gon Play' on her 2014 hit. The former had the lyric "the playas gon play/them haters gonna hate", while 'Shake It Off' famously includes the line "the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".
The duo first went legal in 2017, but the following year judge Michael Fitzgerald dismissed their lawsuit on the basis that the handful of lyrics the two songs have in common are not protected by copyright in isolation.
However, Hall and Butler successfully over-turned that ruling in the Ninth Circuit appeals court, where judges said that Fitzgerald had been too hasty to conclude that the lines about players playing and haters hating were not protected by copyright.
As a result, the whole matter was sent back to the lower court. Ever since, the Swift side has been trying to get the case dismissed for a second time, mainly on the basis that - well - the handful of lyrics the two songs have in common are not protected by copyright in isolation.
Fitzgerald probably agrees, but this time he has rejected Swift's motions for dismissal, because the arguments in the case haven't really changed, so surely the Ninth Circuit would still have an issue with him making a decision on the copyright status of the disputed lyrics without letting those arguments proceed to a jury.
The most recent motion for dismissal was formally knocked back by Fitzgerald last month. But, just before the Christmas break, the Swift side urged the judge to change his mind, arguing that a correct application of the so called 'extrinsic test' used in copyright cases of this kind would confirm, well, that the handful of lyrics the two songs have in common are not protected by copyright in isolation.
That last ditch attempt by Team Swift to stop this dispute going before a jury seemed ambitious. Indeed, Hall and Butler argue in their latest filing with the court, "there is no conceivable procedural vehicle that allows defendants to seek the relief sought here - namely, persuade the court that it somehow got it wrong".
Citing some legal precedents, they go on: "The rules simply do not provide defendants with 'vehicles for rehashing old arguments and are not intended to give an unhappy litigant one additional chance to sway the judge'. This court echoed the same sentiment when it confirmed that defendants' 'unhappiness with the outcome' is not a valid ground to rehash their previously raised arguments that this court already considered and rejected. Defendants present no cognisable reasons to depart from this sound practice here".
Despite insisting that now is not the time for either party to be rehashing "previously raised arguments that this court already considered and rejected", most of the rest of the new Hall and Butler filing then rehashes previously raised arguments as to why it would be inappropriate for the judge to make a ruling on the copyright status of the players playing and haters hating lyrics at this point. You know, just in case Fitzgerald does consider the latest extrinsic test waffling from the Swift side.
Along the way, the Hall and Butler filing states: "In the end, defendants' motion boils down to the argument that the extrinsic test requires filtering out of unprotected elements, and the court failed to perform this filtering exercise. But just because the court did not expressly invoke the magic 'filtering out' mantra does not mean that it somehow forgot to apply it. In fact, the court's holding is clear that the court considered these arguments and rejected them".
And so the back and forth continues.
British music execs launch new Thailand-based music company
Developed while other individual projects fell away during lockdown, the founders have taken the unusual step of assigning a 25% stake in the new business to the artists on the label's roster. This means that, as well as any direct income from their work with the company, those artists will also earn a share of its profits.
"We hope that by effectively making artists shareholders in the company, we can foster a spirit of creativity and collaboration on the roster - where the artists help us choose and develop new additions to the Kaleidoscope BKK family, work on each other's projects, and help each other grow their audience", says Haggerstone, who is Managing Director of the new company.
Kaleidoscope BKK is now actively seeking artists to join its roster, and is encouraging Thailand-based artists to send in demos via the firm's website.
COVID Passport requirements could end in England this month, NTIA wants move to apply UK-wide
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid reportedly told MPs last week that although hospitals remain under "significant pressure" as a result of COVID-related hospitalisations, a steady decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases means current rules seeking to restrict the spread of the coronavirus should be relaxed in England later this month.
That will include the removal of the requirement on clubs and some other venues to check the COVID Passports of customers at point of entry, only allowing in those who are vaccinated or have a recent negative lateral flow test result. Many clubs and venues have been critical of the impact the COVID Passport requirement has on their businesses, both in terms of extra logistics and lost trade.
Those requirements actually went into force in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before England, and it's not clear how long they are likely to stay in place in those countries, where more extensive COVID restrictions have generally been the norm.
Indeed, clubs and some venues are currently back in shutdown in those parts of the UK. Restrictions start to lift on outdoor events in Scotland this week with the hope indoor events will resume later this month. In Wales restrictions on clubs and venues should lift on 28 Jan, while restrictions in Northern Ireland are still being reviewed.
However, COVID Passports could still be a requirement in those countries even once everything is fully open again. But the NTIA is calling for the removal of compulsory COVID Passport checks all over the UK.
The trade group's CEO Michael Kill said in a statement this weekend: "With the devastating losses in hospitality and night time economy businesses over the festive period, and effects of limited cash flow being felt across the UK, our industry has been placed in an extremely fragile state. [COVID] Passports play a considerable part in the continual trading losses associated with this difficult period, with businesses reporting up to 30% loss in trade directly related to this mitigation".
"Frustratingly, at no point have we been privy to evidence or justification to substantiate the decision behind adopting this mitigation, exacerbated further by the data emerging from all four UK territories", he added. "This scheme has been damaging for the late night sector in particular, without ever being demonstrated to achieve the purported objectives, and it is now time to draw a line under it and move on with a consistent approach to other parts of the UK".
He conclude: "Experts believe it will take several years for the hospitality and night time economy sectors to recover, but what is important today is for the government to set aside their political agenda and put people and businesses at the sharpest end of the pandemic first".
CAA's ICM takeover on hold due to antitrust investigation
The takeover deal was announced in September last year, with CAA seemingly particularly keen to get its hands on ICM's growing sports division. It was originally expected that the acquisition would be completed by the end of 2021. However, this has now been pushed pack to the second quarter of this year, pending the outcome of regulator intervention.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the competition investigation may have been triggered as a result of concerns raised by Hollywood unions such as the Writers Guild Of America or Screen Actors Guild. However, CAA co-Chairman Bryan Lourd says that he is "very confident" that the deal will be approved.
"We obviously have gotten great advice from our advisors at [law firm] Wachtell Lipton and [investment bank] Allen & Co, and everyone is very confident about that part of this", Lourd tells THR. "We don't know if they will want to talk to us or not, in the scheme of things this is not a major deal like some of the other deals we are all watching and reading, but we are very confident".
It is not currently clear exactly when the investigation is likely to be completed.
Radio 2 announces Piano Room Month live sessions
Dubbed Radio 2's Piano Room Month - because the sessions will be recorded in the Piano Room at the broadcaster's Maida Vale Studios, see? - each artist will perform three songs each - one new, one old and a cover.
All the performances will be broadcast live, aside from Ed Sheeran and Jamie Cullum, who are pre-recording their efforts. As well as the live broadcast on Radio 2, a video of each set will also be available on the iPlayer for 30 days. There will also be an hour long highlights show each Sunday over the course of the month.
"At Radio 2 we pride ourselves on providing our music-loving listeners with the widest range of songs and live music to be heard anywhere on UK radio", says Radio 2 Head Of Music Jeff Smith. "We worked hard to offer incredible performances to our audience throughout the past two years, and I'm THRILLED to bring 20 live sessions to each of Ken's weekday shows next month".
Bruce adds: "I predict cold, rain and possibly even a smattering of snow this February, so what better remedy than to sit back with a warm brew and join me and some of the finest musicians in the world for Radio 2's Piano Room Month".
Meanwhile, Bill Chandler, Director of the BBC Concert Orchestra, says: "The BBC Concert Orchestra takes great pride in its Radio 2 home and is excited to collaborate with such a range of world-class musicians for its Piano Room Month. As the UK's most versatile orchestra, we're THRILLED to help bring these extra-special live performances to audiences across the month of February".
The full line-up for Piano Room Month is:
31 Jan: David Gray
Now Coachella is annoyed about Bookchella
Goldenvoice has been quite busy of late trying to stop other people using similar names to Coachella for their events. Last September it took action against the organisers of Carchella, a series of car exhibitions that also featured hip hop acts. Fronted by US radio presenter DJ Envy, those events ultimately rebranded to become the Drive Your Dreams Car Show.
Then last month there was the spat over a mini-festival being organised on New Years Eve by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians at a casino complex it operates in the city of Coachella, which was called Coachella Day One 22.
Although no legal action was taken against the Native American tribe directly - its leadership likely shielded from such litigation by sovereign immunity - Goldenvoice got an injunction stopping Live Nation's Ticketmaster from publicising the event under that name.
US-based Imagine Me Creative Book Publishing staged a virtual book tour last year under the banner 'Bookchella, Young Readers To Future Leaders' which, the official blurb stated, was "designed to encourage early learning and reading for children" with a focus on books by "authors that promote positive self-esteem, confidence, bravery, and affirmations".
That certainly sounds like an admirable endeavour. But, reckons Goldenvoice, the publishing firm's attempts to trademark the Bookchella brand within the US should be blocked because it infringes on its various Coachella and Chella trademarks.
In a legal filing formally opposing the Bookchella trademark last week, it stated: "Through the widespread use and advertising of its Coachella marks over a long period of time, and by virtue of the quality of goods and services sold in connection with the Coachella marks, opposer has built up valuable goodwill and a reputation in connection with the Coachella marks, both of which would be jeopardised by applicant's use and registration of the mark 'Bookchella, Young Readers To Future Leaders' for identical, related, and/or overlapping goods and services".
Because, let's not forget, the Coachella festival is not just about the music. "The Coachella Music Festival is about more than the music", the legal filing went on. "The festival's venue also includes camping facilities for some 15,000 attendees (complete with a karaoke lounge and a general store), and an amazing selection of food and beverages from a wide range of restaurants".
Not only that, but "the festival also features an art exhibit that includes many pieces of art. Taken together, the music, the food, the art, and of course, the fellowship of other attendees, the festival is more than just a concert to attend - it truly is an experience".
As a result, it added, "applicant's applied-for 'Bookchella, Young Readers To Future Leaders' mark so resembles opposer's Coachella marks, previously used in commerce and/or registered by opposer and not abandoned, as to be likely, when applied to the goods/services of applicant, to cause confusion or to cause mistake, or to deceive. The registration of applicant's mark would therefore damage opposer".
So there you go. We await to see how the trademark board rules.