Copyright stoush leaves artist body disheartened, accuses radio of ‘depriving’ regional listeners

PPCAThe Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) has said it is disheartened that a number of local commercial regional stations have chosen to shut down their internet simulcasting services rather than take up an interim licence scheme.

Around 200 local radio stations shut down their streaming services on Friday after the introduction of the interim scheme following a Federal Court ruling in February last year they fall outside the definition of a “broadcast” under the Copyright Act and are therefore not covered by existing licences to commercial radio networks.

In a statement the PPCA said: “The PPCA regrets that Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) has 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 terms and conditions of the interim scheme were agreed after lengthy negotiations between PPCA and CRA, and were subsequently considered and then confirmed by the full Copyright Tribunal in December 2013.”

CRA has supported its members in electing not to take up an interim scheme which would allow them to continue their internet simulcast, with CEO Joan Warner saying stations are concerned fees introduced “may be back dated to the start of the interim licence and the financial liability amassed by radio stations would be cost prohibitive, particularly for regional stations”.

“The interim scheme isn’t the issue, the issue is what are we going to be hit with once the record companies pursue this as they have been doing aggressively through every legal avenue,” Warner said.

The PPCA has rejected the CRA claims that “a simulcast 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.”

The organisation added: “This is simply a matter of commercial negotiation between the billion dollar commercial radio industry and the thousands of Australian artists and record label that PPCA represents. What PPCA is seeking is no different to every other major Australian sporting code or content industry which has a traditional and digital revenue stream.

“PPCA works to ensure thousands of Australian recording artists and record labels receive their fair share for the use of their work by commercial entities. The billion dollar commercial radio industry has enjoyed the advantages of expanding into online markets by simulcasting their broadcasts, but has ignored its obligations to recompense those who create the content they rely on.”

Warner has come back at these claims, stating: “Regional commercial radio stations are not as the PPCA describes a “billion dollar commercial radio industry”.  They are locally run, are integral parts of their local communities and provide local news, information and entertainment to communities.”

CRA continues to support the stations decision to switch off their simulcast, with Warner citing concerns of future financial liability that may incur “if the PPCA gets the high cost scheme it has repeatedly said it wants and also has payments backdated – which it has also indicated it will pursue. That is why they have had to switch off their simulcast.”

CRA has also rejected the PPCA’s argument that commercial radio stations are the same as internet broadcasters, stating: ” The PPCA argues that commercial radio stations are the same as “internet broadcasters” and are equating local radio broadcasts with sporting events. As noted above, internet only services do not pay spectrum fees, are not heavily regulated, have no local content obligations and do not already pay multiple times for the right to play music, as local radio stations do.”

Warner said: “That is the difference between a radio station that holds a licence and an internet broadcaster broadcasting a sporting event who does not.  Commercial radio stations are being asked to take out another licence for the same broadcast and for content for which they already pay.”

The Copyright Tribunal is still determining the terms and conditions of the final licence scheme.

“The Tribunal is the appropriate and expert mechanism to resolve any copyright dispute in Australia, and will take into account the merits of the arguments of both parties in determining a fair and commercial rate,” the PPCA said, adding it had “tried many times to engage CRA in open and amicable negotiations to resolve this issue – and will continue to do so”.

The organisation concluded: “PPCA has never been interested in pursuing anything other than a fair and commercial outcome. Sadly, CRA seems prepared to penalise regional radio listeners while demanding an outcome that is not supported in legal or political processes in Australia or around the world.”

CRA says the radio industry maintains the internet is another distribution mechanism for live and local free to air content, comparing it to analogue radios, DAB+ digital radios, car radios and FM radios in mobile phones.

It said: “This insistence by the PPCA on a second higher fee threatens the continuation of listeners being able to access their local stations.”


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