Wednesday 13 February 2013, 12:32 | By Chris Cooke
Welsh language music returns to BBC Radio Cymru, for now
Welsh language songs are back on BBC Radio Cymru after the Beeb reached a temporary agreement with the new collecting society set up to represent Welsh songwriters and music publishers. Though negotiations continue regards a long-term licensing deal, and the dispute could still end up in front of the Copyright Tribunal.
As previously reported, about 300 Welsh language creators and copyright owners last year took their collected works away from publishing rights collecting society PRS For Music, and set up their own rights organisation called Eos.
The move followed a long-running dispute about the way royalties paid by the BBC for music played on its Welsh radio stations (English language BBC Radio Wales and Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru) were distributed to rights owners by PRS. The Welsh language community were unhappy with a change in the royalties distribution system in 2007 which meant they received less of the loot.
The change properly came into effect at the start of the year, and because the BBC failed to reach an agreement with new body Eos on licensing terms, the Corporation was forced to stop playing songs owned by Eos members on BBC Radio Cymru, forcing a revamp and downsizing of the Welsh language station’s output.
With no deal on the horizon, earlier month the BBC confirmed it planned to take the matter to Copyright Tribunal, the special court that considers copyright and royalty issues where parties cannot agree on collective licensing terms.
Eos was not overly impressed with the BBC’s Tribunal plans, even though the Beeb offered to contribute to the collecting society’s legal costs. Nevertheless, the organisation’s members continued discussing the option of allowing the BBC to play their music in the short term while negotiations continued, and agreed to do just that at a meeting last Friday evening.
Eos’s CEO Dafydd Roberts said neither he nor his members wanted BBC Radio Cymru to lose listeners as a result of the dispute, plus, realistically speaking, the BBC station is the highest profile media platform for many Eos members’ music, so the songs blackout hurts them as much as the Corporation.
A short-term arrangement has now been reached, which will allow the BBC to play Eos members’ music while licensing talks continue. The Beeb said it would reintroduce that music to BBC Radio Cymru’s programmes with immediate effect, and hoped to restore any cut back services as soon as possible.
Commenting on the latest development, BBC Radio Cymru Director Rhodri Talfan Davies told reporters: “I am delighted that Eos has agreed to allow Radio Cymru to play its members’ music once again. This is an important development and one which ensures that Radio Cymru’s service to listeners can once again be the best it can be”.
“Welsh language music is a fundamental part of Radio Cymru and it has been a challenging six weeks without access to the repertoire. I’d like to thank Radio Cymru listeners for their patience during this dispute as well as the staff of Radio Cymru who have worked tirelessly to maintain the service in difficult circumstances”.
“Our focus is now on reaching a permanent agreement which is fair to Welsh language musicians and the licence fee payer. It is reassuring that we can now continue these discussions knowing that the dispute is no longer affecting Radio Cymru’s output”.