Music Industry Body Slams Radio For Short-Changing Artists

The music industry has slammed commercial radio networks for short-changing artists, “pulling stunts” and “crying out for government assistance” following their shut down of online simulcasts to 200 regional stations last Friday.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports, on Friday regional communities lost access to nearly 200 online radio stations because of an escalating and bitter dispute between Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA), over licence fees for internet simulcasts.

The PPCA wants the labels and artists it represents to be paid extra licence fees for tracks played in the online versions of existing radio shows. But the radio operators have opted instead to turn off their regional stations’ simulcasts, rather than pay the fee for what Rhys Holleran, chief executive of Southern Cross Media deems, “exactly the same broadcast twice.”

Dan Rosen, chief executive of the PPCA, said the “law had been settled” after a Federal Court ruling in February 2013, which determined that the internet simulcast right is a separate right that needs to be paid for by commercial radio.

“Recording artists and labels should not be asked to subsidise radio stations and their wealthy owners,” said Mr. Rosen. “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 compensate those who create the content they rely on.”

“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 PPCA said in a statement following Friday’s shut down decision.

The PPCA had previously proposed an interim scheme, wherein it was willing to grant interim licences to commercial radio broadcasters to use music as part of their internet simulcast services. But, according to the SMH, station owners are fearful that the fees could be backdated.

“The fees proposed are outrageously high and moreover ask us to pay for exactly the same broadcast twice,” said Rhys Holleran. “There are two really simple solutions, one is the Minister could make a direction . . . or there could be scheme adopted which was reflective of reality.”

The CRA has been urging Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to step in with legislation, but in an interview with The Financial Review last Wednesday, Mr Turnbull said the communications department will not get involved.

“The commercial radio industry wants us to legislate to treat internet streaming of radio as being broadcasting so they don’t have to negotiate with the owners of the music industry. We’ve said ‘no, so that’s a matter between the rights owners of the music and the radio stations,” he told the publication. “I don’t think the government should be regulating where it doesn’t have to,” he added.

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