Stoush between record companies and radio stations over licence fees set to drag on for a year


The ongoing dispute between radio stations and record companies over the cost of rights for songs for digital transmission is set to rumble on with the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) applying to the Copyright Tribunal to set the level of fees which should be paid.

An interim scheme was introduced at the beginning of the month which saw nearly 200 local commercial regional radio stations cease their online simulcasts of shows due to fears the financial liability stations amass could be cost prohibitive, and possibly back-dated.

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) said only 42 commercial stations chose to take out the interim license at the January 31 deadline and these stations have indicated that they are reviewing the situation regularly and may also consider switching off. At the time the PPCA said it “regrets” that CRA had chosen to “deprive regional listeners of local programming, rather than take up the interim licence scheme negotiated between CRA (on behalf of its members) and PPCA.”

The tribunal has set a final date for the matter to be stettled for March 2015.

Commerical-Radio-AustraliaThe PPCA said in a statement it continues to be open to reach a commercial settlement with CRA despite their stonewalling and political stunts.”

The extra fee is a result of the Federal Court ruling in February last year that internet simulcasts of radio programs fall outside the definition of a “broadcast” under the Copyright Act and are therefore not covered by existing licences to commercial radio networks.

CRA CEO Joan Warner rejected PPCA’s claim they are open to reach a settlement, and said in a statement: “In spite of the PPCA’s public statements that they are willing to engage in open and amicable negotiation, they are obviously not satisfied with the interim scheme and at the first opportunity have once again taken the legal route through the Tribunal.

“The interim scheme itself is not the issue, in spite of the PPCA trying to set it up as some sort of smokescreen for their real agenda. The issue is the significant financial risk an interim licence imposes on a station. If the record companies are successful in having the high cost scheme imposed on radio, and it is backdated, the financial liability accrued could be crippling. In addition, stations will be hit with another cost – the cost of setting up a complex reporting and compliance system.”

CRA said the PPCA’s preferred scheme is “based on a high cost per track, per listener, per listening episode, per stream to replace the current flat fee interim scheme”.

“The reality of the interim scheme is that it is not “just a $100 a month” as the PPCA persistently and incorrectly states. The interim scheme for a radio station in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Geelong, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Newcastle is up to $3,125 per quarter per station and in other smaller regional areas is $312 per quarter per station – plus a requirement for three separate sets of reports being kept so fees can be backdated for their preferred high cost final scheme.”

CRA says all radio stations, commercial, community and the ABC and SBS, already pay a fee to the record companies alongside the copyright fees they pay to the composers’ collecting body (APRA). Commercial stations also pay a spectrum licence fee to the government for a broadcast licence.

When the interim licence was introduced at the beginning of the month Warner told Mumbrella: “This is a major issue for the radio industry, it’s an issue where record companies want stations to pay twice if listeners choose to listen online to an exact simulcast of a broadcast, nothing is changed, there’s no additional advertising, there’s no different advertising, it’s an exact simulcast.”

However, the PPCA has rejected the claim that the licence results in “double dipping”, saying: “This is a separate and additional use of PPCA members’ content to drive increased listener numbers. CRA also conveniently ignores the fact that currently its members have the benefit of a broadcast licence fee calculated on the basis of a statutory licence fee cap which has not been revised since 1969.”


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