Welsh music dispute: BBC Radio Cymru cuts airtime and amends playlists

BBC Radio Cymru is cutting its airtime after losing the right to play more than 30,000 songs

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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.

Radio Cymru is also cutting its airtime by two hours a day after losing the right to play more than 30,000 songs.

The musicians broke away from the Performing Right Society (PRS) to join a new agency, claiming they were being short-changed for their work.

The agency, Eos, says it wants a "fair price for Welsh music".

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 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%.

Since then, an alliance of Welsh musicians and composers has sought to improve the payments made by broadcasters, launching the new agency in August to handle the licensing of their work.

Start Quote

I urge both parties to reach a fair and affordable settlement so that Radio Cymru can quickly return to providing its usual comprehensive and much loved service”

End Quote Elan Closs Stephens BBC National Trustee for Wales

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.

Daily output is being reduced by two hours, as the station will start broadcasting an hour later in the morning at 06:30 GMT, finishing an hour early at 23:00 GMT.

Playlists will include popular classical and instrumental music, as well as a number of English-language and international artists.

Some Welsh-language pop music not affected by the rights dispute is being included.

The C2 evening programmes - which showcase new Welsh music - will be cut to an hour.

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.

"Both the BBC and Eos want to ensure that a fair outcome is achieved - and it is a fair outcome for all parties that we will be focusing on when further talks with Eos take place next week."

The BBC Trust - the BBC's governing body which is independent of the corporation's management - has urged a settlement claiming it was in nobody's interest for the dispute to continue.

BBC National Trustee for Wales Elan Closs Stephens said: "I urge both parties to reach a fair and affordable settlement so that Radio Cymru can quickly return to providing its usual comprehensive and much loved service."

Eos chair Gwilym Morus has said it was a "shame that the BBC have chosen to damage the national radio service because they are unwilling to pay a fair price for Welsh music".

He said he did not want any more harm done to Radio Cymru because both the station and the musicians shared the same audience.

"Regretfully, I believe the BBC in London is showing a lack of respect towards their own staff in Wales and towards Welsh culture," he said.

Radio Cymru reaches about 142,000 listeners a week, or 6% of the adult population of Wales, according to the latest Rajar audience survey.

On Saturday the Welsh-language TV station S4C confirmed it had reached agreement with Eos over the use of its artists' music.

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