Welsh Radio Station Forced To Play Classical Music, English Songs After Royalty Talks Stall

from the trading-away-reputation-for-$$$ dept

Another battle between artists' representatives and an outlet for these same artists to be heard has resulted in… one less place for these artists to be heard. Radio Cymru, the Welsh arm of BBC Radio, has cut its broadcast day by two hours and drastically altered its playlist after losing its right to use a catalog of 30,000 Welsh songs.

Classical music and hymns are replacing rock and pop on BBC Radio Cymru as the deadline for a rights deal with leading Welsh-language musicians passes.

The right to broadcast the songs of 331 Welsh-language musicians and music publishers rests with Eos – the Welsh word for nightingale – from today.

The BBC said Eos had rejected a substantial offer to settle the dispute shortly before Christmas. As no agreement was reached, Radio Cymru has implemented changes to its broadcasting hours and programme content.

BBC Cymru Wales said in a statement on Monday it was “very disappointed” an agreement had not been reached and confirmed Radio Cymru programmes would be affected.

“Radio Cymru's commitment to support and develop Welsh music is a longstanding one – and we have listened carefully to the concerns of Welsh-language composers and artists during this dispute,” the statement said.

Once again, the desire to make a cash grab has overwhelmed the desire to be heard. And it always seems to be “representatives” of the artists that keep cutting ahead in line to get their hands out first, often at the expense of the very artists they “serve.”

Unsurprisingly, the pernicious acts of another performance rights group is behind Eos' search for a “fair price.” Having been screwed by an old Techdirt favorite, Eos is now attempting to force the BBC make up for PRS' actions.

The musicians broke away from the Performing Rights Society (PRS) to join a new agency, claiming they were being short-changed for their work. The dispute arose from a change by the PRS in 2007 which many Welsh language artists claim cut their royalty payments by as much as 85%.

Rather than attempt to get PRS to pay this “fair share,” Eos has decided to go after the broadcasters who had nothing to do with the severe slashing of royalty payments, which fell from £1.6m in 2007 to £260,000 in 2009. Eos is acting on the recommendation of research paper published in 2009 that presented a way to generate (or at least ask for) nearly 10 times the going rate per minute of broadcast time.

The report says artists who broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru receive 49p for every minute of airtime, collected by PRS. However, it says Radio Cymru is treated like an English local radio station, rather than a national broadcaster

The report argues that if the station was available on the UK DAB network of digital stations, artists would earn £4.71 per minute, nearly ten times as much. It said a Welsh-based royalties agency would be aiming to bring back in something more like the larger DAB royalties fees.

“Welsh language repertoire – Radio Cymru relies on that for its broadcasting,” pointed out the report's joint author, Deian ap Rhisiart. “If the whole composers and publishers en block declare they are terminating their membership with the PRS, then the BBC haven't got any choice but to deal with them – that's the scenario.”

At that point, a spokesman for BBC Wales (quite logically) claimed that this was a dispute between PRS and its Welsh members, and that these two entities should attempt to solve it on their own. Unfortunately, Welsh artists decided it would be better to set up their own organization and tangle with the BBC directly. The end result? An outcome that overreaching rights organizations all over the world are familiar with: no additional income and the loss of an outlet.

So, in a quest for “more,” Welsh artists have ended up with less (at least temporarily) exposure and the very real potential of finding themselves vilified by the same listeners who used to consider themselves fans. Rather than go after PRS for screwing Welsh artists, Eos decided to pass the screwing along to Radio Cymru, pricing itself out of the market and depriving itself of a useful promotional tool.

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Companies: bbc, eos, prs

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Comments on “Welsh Radio Station Forced To Play Classical Music, English Songs After Royalty Talks Stall”

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34 Comments
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Any respectful answer would take more space than is available here, but there’s copious history and arguments readily available on the net.

The key, though, is this assumes reasonable copyright laws (more in line with what the founders discussed). Also, even best case, copyright is not a pure win — it comes with inescapable downsides (which is why the founders weren’t very excited about including it at all).

However, it can be useful.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

“Does anyone here believe copyright actually promotes culture and progress of science?”

No, not by today’s definition anyway. Corporate lobbyists flaunting generous campaing contributions changed all the rules.

Industry suits want for every culture to be wholly and forever dependent upon their locked-up works, forever buying, licensing, parodying, imitating, singing/karaoke, sampling, sharing, even stealing said works. Heck, they’ve effectively transformed YouTube it into yet another glorified promotional vehicle for their own works. They’ve all but eliminated the YOU from the TUBE with regards to independent artists.

Captain Kibble (profile) says:

Bad publicity for the BBC

Sadly being logical and correct is not how it works in the UK when the BBC in involved. The BBC will come out of this looking bad because it is always the one at fault. It is even to blame for things that it has never been involved in, had no control over or happened before it even existed.

If you don’t believe me ask anyone of the commercial TV/radio stations or newspapers in the UK. They’ll tell you. The UK Government will probably agree but they’ll have to check with Rupert Murdoch to find out what their position is first.

Give it a few more weeks and the BBC will be forced into a humiliating climb down that involves paying out millions from the licence fee for content listened to by all of 3 people. That waste of money will be their fault too, naturally.

Aria Company (profile) says:

Re: Bad publicity for the BBC

What’s even more sad is the BBC is a publicly funded organization. The “TV Tax” is basically being wasted paying for licenses people shouldn’t have to pay for public broadcasting.

I don’t know what’s going on in the UK, but the news coming out of the region has been frightening. People in the US often hint at a revolution, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the UK beats us to it.

Reminds me of “V for Vendetta”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Bad publicity for the BBC

“I don’t know what’s going on in the UK, but the news coming out of the region has been frightening.”

Depends where you’ve been getting your news. If it’s any combination of the Daily Mail, Express, The Sun or similar, most of it’s is going to have been a combination of half-truths, lies and exaggerations with the occasional sprinkling of truth. Imagine a British person’s view of the US election recently if only the more extreme views from the right wing were being seen there and you might have an idea of what I mean.

If not, which specific news are you talking about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Bad publicity for the BBC

Well according to UK news media, the US blew up a week ago, so don’t believe the news. UK is doing pretty well compared to US and most of Europe.

Also I would not trade the BBC for anything else. Fantastic organisation that causes most british TV to be excellent simply to compete with it. The original persons comment was that every time they get accused of anything, they don’t fight it because they don’t want to become political.

The Real Michael says:

Eos, PRS, BMI, RIAA, ASCAP, SESAC, Warner, Sony, etc. It really doesn’t matter what they call themselves. What’s the real difference between them, besides their choice of letters?

It’s past January 1st. Any word on the termination clauses going into effect? This is one news story that’s going to make waves in the industry.

PaulT (profile) says:

“However, it says Radio Cymru is treated like an English local radio station, rather than a national broadcaster. The report argues that if the station was available on the UK DAB network of digital stations, artists would earn ?4.71 per minute, nearly ten times as much”

Well, there’s several things to address here, I think. Firstly, unless you consider Wales to be a separate sovereign nation, Radio Cymru *is* a local station to all intents and purposes (it only services Wales other than its streaming/satellite content). A station with a small demographic, given that Wales has less than 10% of the UK population and less than 20% of the Welsh population speak the language.

On top of that who cares what they “would get” if it was on a different service if it’s not? Whatever contract rules apply to that service don’t apply to other services. Either get PRS to change their rules or try to convince Cymru that they should be on the DAB service. Even this is confusing, however, as the BBC site seems to suggest that it is on DAB in certain parts of the south from particular transmitters, which directly contradicts Eos’s claims. Expansion seems to be beyond the BBC’s control as it’s dependant on OFCOM licences being granted (again, according to their site), and would such a niche station be guaranteed the same royalties as an English language station? That’s not clear.

So they seem to be complaining that a niche radio station not available everywhere in the UK, transmitted in a language that the majority do not speak or understand, is not getting as much as they would do if the station was on a service it’s not part of. Because of this, they prefer to risk getting nothing and attack a 3rd party who don’t necessarily have a direct decision on any of the factors involved, and almost certainly can’t afford to just start paying 10x the royalties they currently do just because someone else wants more money.

This sounds like the typical modus operandi for the music industry, unfortunately.

Donglebert the Needlessly Obtuse says:

Re: Being welsh

I have to agree.

Firstly, a clarification to the article. BBC Radio Cymru is the “Welsh speaking” arm of BBC Radio Wales, which itself is the Welsh arm of the BBC. So it’s probably the Welsh finger.

BBC Cymru is a regional radio station. National radio covers all the UK, BBC Cymru doesn’t. The BBC could broadcast it nationally, but it doesn’t (and shouldn’t, considering the tight budgets).

Since BBC Cymru is part of the ongoing work to preserve the Welsh language and encourage its uptake, I can see an argument that there should be a small uplift for music that wouldn’t necessarily get played elsewhere, but that’s it.

If these musicians need the exposure, they should arguably be paying the BBC to play them. Do they pay the BBC royalties on sales made due to radio coverage? No.

Donglebert the Needlessly Obtuse says:

Re: Re: Re: Being welsh

It doesn’t have equal status, it’s budgeted out of the BBC Wales budget.

I agree that in many instances Wales is an individual nation.

However, your statement that England, Wales, Scotland, and NI as nations combined make up the British Isles is ridiculous. Firstly, the British Isles are just the name of the islands, and secondly those isles don’t include Eire where Northern Island is located. Great Britain is the name of the biggest British Isle – because it’s the biggest. Britain was there before any of the nations that came to be located on it.

And legally Wales is not a nation state either. The United part of the the UK refers to the Acts of Union that joined the kingdoms of Scotland and England together. Wales was not a kingdom, it was and is a principality of England. Go back far enough you could say that Cornwall should have a national radio station, but we don’t.

And in terms of the BBC, it’s not either. The first B in BBC stands for British. That’s the nation it’s broadcasting to. It’s not the sum of its parts, it’s the whole.

Is there a BBC England? No, there’s not.

There are regional BBC studios in England. Are there regional BBC studios in Wales or Scotland or NI? Is there a BBC Powys, a BBC RCT, a BBC Gwynedd? No there’s not.

That’s because the BBC broadcasts nationally, and then produces regional content for the local stations. In that case, and in terms of BBC set up, BBC Radio Wales is no different to BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Solent, etc.

So, coming from someone who’s proudly Welsh, check your facts first.

Anonymous Coward says:

every radio station on the planet should stop playing songs belonging to labels artists and play just independent and indie artists material. that would maybe make these morons realise what a balls up they are making! i hope the station in question carries on as it is and doesn’t give in to the demands for more money! as for Eos, serves them rights! the greed has resulted in getting nothing!

gorehound (profile) says:

Stay the fuck away from any of these large Record Labels/Corporations Welsh Artists !
Signing with the Devil…………you do not get my sympathy !
I am an original 1970’s Punk Rocker and I never thought to get signed to the Devil and I still feel that way.
Nowadays we talk about Boycotting MAFIAA, ETC.
I became a Punk in 1976 because that is the way I am ! That is me and was me.Saying Fuck You to the Music Industry in 1976 and still doing that is a strong point in my Personality.
It means I am the real thing and I do not regret this one bit.
Welsh Artists do your own thing ! Fuck the Corporate Blah Blah !

Vidiot (profile) says:

Git-em-over-a-barrel strategy = fail

“…the BBC haven’t got any choice but to deal with them – that’s the scenario.”

Gotta love those report authors; what would we do without consultants? And when you commission a report, aren’t you generally looking for a balanced, objective overview, rather than a Snidely Whiplash-esque, winner-takes-all war plan? It’s a zero-sum game, and the zeroes go to the composers and musicians.

Steffan (profile) says:

I'm not sure you understand the problem

This argument is not about the value of copyright. This is about the right for compensation when a work is performed. Wales is a nation and should be rightly compensated as a national radio station which serves the nation of Wales.

The rate quoted in the report of ?4.71 is not what is being asked for as it suggested above, but simply an illustration of what could be achieved should the station be broadcasted across the DAB network. The situation for BBC Radio Cymru / Wales in terms of audience share is comparable to the BBC Asian network which is receiving considerably more funds than Welsh artists despite the same audience share.

Further to this, the main reason for needing to readdress the rates in Wales is that the drop came about as a result of a change of rates by the PRS in 2007 without a period of consolation or impact assessment. Wales was previously able to sustain a vibrant music industry. However it stands to reason with a reduction of almost ?2m coming into the Welsh music industry, things cannot remain the same.

This all comes down to the PRS favouring the majors and the BBC not wanting to interrupt their favourable blanket fee arrangement with the PRS.

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