Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Sound of 'Saesneg' in the Valleys.

I blog for enjoyment, or to bring order to the chaos of my mind, or to stimulate others to response through expression of my own opinions. But this post is a plea for information which might help me understand what on earth is going on at Radio Cymru. Its like watching a dear friend, having fallen seriously ill, and through ignorance of what medication is needed, being helpless to offer advice. Lets just consider the facts as I understand them. And I am open to correction.

In 2007, the Performing Rights Society decided that Welsh recording artists were being overpaid 'appearance money' when their music was being played on Radio Cymru. The PRS claimed it had calculated the payments on a mistaken formula, and 'corrected' the position by reducing the payments very significantly. The performers were and remain understandably disgruntled, and 331 of them have formed an 'negotiating body' called Eos, which has been negotiating with the BBC to establish a new payment regime. The BBC, on the other hand, reckon they have offered a generous increase. Eos disagree with this. From today there is impasse. We observers look on with incomprehension at what looks like a uncontrolled trip over a fiscal cliff, and all set to English music.

Radio Cymru, from today is playing music in mostly the English Language. This is a catastrophe for Radio Cymru. Its a catastrophe for the Welsh Language. And its a catastrophe for the artists who perform 'yn yr Iaith Cymraeg'. No other way of putting it. Radio Cymru receives annually £13.5 million of licence fee money, and has a weekly audience of about 150,000 - and its not even playing Welsh Language music, the point of its existence. This is lose/lose/lose.

And now to the advice and help I need. Are the artists demanding an unrealistic fee of Radio Cymru for the use of their music when there is no other output in the market for it? Or is the BBC trying to manipulate a monopoly position to secure rights to use music performed by Welsh Language artists on the unacceptable 'cheap'? No idea. Only hope I can see of extricating Radio Cymru from this total 'llanast' is through the extraordinary negotiating skills of Elan Clos Stephens. There will be many, like me, who are shaking their heads in bewilderment at what looks like self-inflicted damage.

5 comments:

mamaluke said...

Surely the fee should be the same whether English or Welsh. I don't know what the current rates are. I feel a bit of Google research coming on! Glad Elan is involved.

Anonymous said...

My questions are:-
1) What fees have Radio Cymru paid to Welsh language artists in 2012?
2) What fees have Radio Cymru paid to English language artists in 2012?
3) What fees have Radio Wales paid to Welsh language artists in 2012?
4) What fees have Radio Wales paid to English language artists in 2012?

Gwilym Morus said...

Hello Glyn, thanks for this post. I've been involved in the campaign for better royalties for the past few years and am current chair of Eos. Some more information for you:

To begin with, two independent research papers have been published the last few years regarding the situation, available to download at ygynghrair.com > gwybodaeth > adroddiadau

Just to clarify, in 2007 the PRS made a policy change about 'analogies' royalties which had nothing to do with Welsh music. The resulting cut in Welsh royalties was an accidental consequence. They didnt foresee the impact this would have on the Welsh music industry and would have been unaware of the problem if we hadnt complained about it.

Yes. it is my belief that the BBC is suppressing the actual value of Welsh music so as to protect their 'bulk buy' deal with the PRS. The BBC are able to use as much music as they like for a one off payment of around £50 million a year, which is quite a bargain when you consider this covers all of their services, tv and radio, national and local; this is a drop in the ocean of their £3.5 billion a year revenue.

Welsh royalties in 2007 was another drop in the ocean, we received around £1.5 million all in all, the industry was developing and creators were generally satisfied. That has now dropped to about £200,000, of which Radio Cymru is responsible for maybe half. Exact figures are difficult to come by.

Our argument is that the 'bulk buy' deal between the BBC and PRS serves the heavily promoted Anglo-american genres very well, but leaves many smaller industrial communities out in the cold. The OFT reported on similar complaints back in 1999. The Welsh music industry is the only industry that can supply Welsh language music (unless there are some Patagonians out there who want to give it a go), and we believe the BBC should honour its relationship with its main supplier of content. Eos works make up around 35% of Radio Cymru's broadcasting hours, but we currently receive less than 1% of its revenue.

If the BBC can afford to pay Entwistle £450,000 for a years work he didn't even do, then we believe they can afford to pay a fair price for Welsh music.

Neilyn said...

I can't help thinking about the Welsh Language Act 1993; "Welsh and English shall be treated on the basis of equality".

BBC is public sector, right? So, to my dimwitted mind, that must mean an equal amount of royalty payment by the BBC to artists/composers of Welsh and English language songs alike, whether broadcast via Radio Cymru or via Radio Wales. A fairly clear cut example I would say, and certainly in keeping with the spirit of the Act.

Being cynical about it, perhaps the difference in reward for those who sing in the native tongue is an example of the mother of all get out clauses in the 1993 Act being implemented; "where it is appropriate and reasonably practical to do so" (no prizes for guessing who gets to decide when it's appropriate and practical!)

Likewise, and probably more relevant by now, the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, which again establishes that "the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language".

But Welsh IS being treated by the BBC less favourably than English!! Or do the BBC happily also consider this newer legislation to be irrelevant when it comes royalty payments?

One for Meri Huws or a good firm of lawyers perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable treatment of Welsh musicians. This is the kind of issue where I thought the Welsh Language Commissioner should be active. Because these musicians and the audience of Radio Cymru are Welsh citizens. Is the Commissioner able to intervene or is it not allowed because broadcasting is not devolved? Who will fight our corner?