BBC's Welsh music fees row with Eos goes to copyright tribunal

Faders in studio
Image caption Eos was formed when its members became unhappy with a reduction in PRS royalty payments

A dispute over royalty payments between the BBC and Eos, the agency representing some Welsh language music composers and publishers, is being considered by a copyright tribunal.

At an interim hearing in April, the tribunal ordered the BBC to continue paying Eos £120,000 a year to access its members' repertoire of music.

This sum was agreed by both parties in February.

Eos wants the tribunal sitting in Caernarfon to raise it to £1.5m a year.

However, the BBC has said an annual payment of £100,000 would be a fair price to pay for the right to broadcast the musicians' work.

At the heart of the disagreement lies an impasse over the financial value of Welsh language music to the BBC, which predominately broadcasts the music on its Welsh language station Radio Cymru, as well as occasionally on other BBC services.

Eos was formed when its members became unhappy with a reduction in royalty payments from PRS for Music, the UK's principal royalties collection agency.

This collects fees from broadcasters and distributes them to its membership of composers and publishers.

PRS for Music pays its members based on the amount of airplay they receive on radio and television, but it also adds another fee which takes into account the public performance of music in places such as pubs, shops and keep-fit classes.

In 2007, PRS for Music changed the way it distributed royalty payments to Welsh language musicians, with some of those affected claiming it represented a reduction in income of as much as 85%.

Playlist changes

It is the public performance element of the royalty payment that reduced substantially in the case of Welsh language musicians and which provoked some to form Eos in order to negotiate a higher fee directly with the BBC.

For six weeks at the beginning of the year the BBC lost the right to broadcast Eos members' music, resulting in schedule and playlist changes to Radio Cymru.

Eos had taken control of the broadcast rights to its members' music on 1 January but had failed to reach an agreement with the BBC over how much the broadcaster should pay to use its repertoire.

As well as agreeing a £120,000 interim annual licence payment with Eos, the BBC has given the collection agency £65,000 and offered a further £35,000 to enable it to attend the tribunal with sufficient preparation and legal representation.

In August, Eos made the first of its half-yearly payments to members, paying a rate of £1.60 per minute to composers and publishers whose work was played on BBC Radio Cymru and Radio Wales.

PRS currently pays its members a rate of 52p per minute for songs broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru as well as an additional fee calculated to reflect public performances.

The tribunal is expected to last five days.

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