PPL alone in charging broadcasters for DAB small-scale tests
By James Cridland for media.info
Posted 21 July 2015, 12.01pm edt
PPL, the body that collects music royalty payments on behalf of record companies, has re-affirmed that it plans to charge existing stations an additional fee to simulcast on a nine-month technical trial of small-scale DAB.
Ofcom is currently testing small-scale DAB multiplexes in a variety of places in the UK, designed to discover whether the technology is suitable for community radio broadcasters. It has waived any licence fee for the tests, which are planned to take nine months. The tests are technical pilots for small local services that may become permanent in future.
PRS, who collect on behalf of songwriters and performers, has asked for no extra payment for the tests, though increases in Net Broadcasting Revenue may change the total fee paid. In an email seen by media.info, they state that they will cover the additional platform with a side letter.
However, PPL has sent out letters in the past week highlighting that it will charge an additional £500+VAT for stations involved in the pilot, irrespective of whether they have an existing paid-for PPL licence. A PPL spokesperson confirmed that this additional fee applies for all radio stations taking part in the pilot.
Radio broadcasters affected by these charges point out that many of these tests cover a simulcast of an existing FM station over a similar transmission area, and they argue that the broadcasts don't represent additional exploitation.
Community radio operators, for whom the small-scale DAB trial represents a potential way to get onto digital radio, also point out that the £500 fee charged by PPL is more than they pay for their existing, permanent, community radio FM licences, on a monthly basis. One affected operator expressed difficulty understanding how PPL justified the fee.
Speaking to media.info, a PPL spokesperson said that the DAB service was an additional platform which represented additional use of their members' repertoire. They highlighted that DAB is already charged separately for community, hospital and student stations.
PPL highlighted that this fee will be reviewed at the end of the trial period, and that PPL currently does not offer a different rate for DAB based on a station's Ofcom licence type.
The ten small-scale DAB multiplexes are all due on-air before October 11th.
It's hardly surprising they are trying this, they were after all the only collection agency that will charge a 'traditional' hospital radio station, by that I mean one that doesn not broadcast either online or via a freely radiating transmitter - for example on LPAM, LPFM.
Well, this will come as no surprise to those who have in the past tried to see rationality in PPL's other fees for small-scale broadcasters. But of course, the issue of charges for pilot broadcasts is only a reflection of the PPL situation for long-term broadcasters, who bear these costs year-in, year-out.
PPL charges a lot extra for any form of simulcasting, even though any additional value derived from using its repertoire to increase overall audience should already be reflected in and properly recompensed by the percentage royalty it levies on Net Broadcasting Revenue.
In truth, PPL already uses a mechanism of sky-high minimum charges to jack up the royalty charges for very small operators way above the levels settled by the Copyright Tribunal, and by insisting on separate licences for each simulcast medium, each with its own minimum fees, it manipulates the system to boost these levies even further.
These are the full licensing costs I put together for one hospital radio applicant: https://myshare.box.com/s/2ac57yqbmtqr3hjl5ucff63gx9lva2ui
One important note - the music licensing is DSPS specific, so a service that is on more than one SS-DAB multiplex will only pay one set of fees (inc. PPL).
And the irony is not lost on us at RadioReverb in Brighton that we play no mainstream music whatsoever, so unsigned local bands, underground acts, African performers and so on do not receive one penny from PPL for their airplay by us.
I get the impression that there's some confusion over the status of these licences. Ofcom refer to them as technical tests or trials, while many of the service providers and broadcasters are advertising them as if they're new, permanent commercial and community radio services, posting job advertisements for people to work on their new stations and so forth.
So what are they? Technical trials of the new small-scale DAB technology (which I thought had already been done in Brighton) or new services aimed at attracting audiences, advertising and sponsorship? Since, in a lot of cases, the services are being marketed with some fanfare as the latter I can't see why they wouldn't attract music licensing fees like any other station.
I'm no cheerleader for PPL, but I can see their point - either these stations are technical tests not intended for audiences or they're new services. It seems that the stations are seeing them as the latter.
It's a trial. We are going to simulcast our existing FM service - which we've already paid for once, already representing a hefty chunk of our limited income. We're not anticipating picking up many new listeners, in the hundreds if we're being optimistic, certainly not in the thousands.
Alice: it doesn't matter at all whether whether you regard them as trials or new services, the point is that they are simulcasts of existing PPL-licensed broadcasts, and any added value they represent for the stations would be reflected in increased payments to PPL collected through the Tribunal-approved mechanism of royalties on NBR.
Instead, PPL seeks to levy disproportionate charges by insisting on a separate licence with its own excessive minimum fee, meaning that for small stations the effective royalty rates being paid are massively inflated in a way not approved by the Tribunal. PRS, just by way of comparison, includes all simulcasts under one licence, and so levies its minimum fee only once per service.
Bear in mind also that previous Tribunal rulings came down heavily against the concept of 'premiums' being charged by PPL - ie additional payments just for the privilege of starting some new form of service. PPL effectively charges small stations with premiums by the back door through the use of minimum fees that have never been tested nor assessed before a Copyright Tribunal.
This news may be surprising for some, yet PRS and PPL have had their current position for some time now. Any station that approached PRS or PPL before the minimux application was submitted would have been told this. So this annoying situation, won't have be news to any station that did it's homework.
On the matter of totally new terrestrial broadcasters, perhaps those that were online stations launching on a DAB minimux, it's actually PRS that are charging their standard rates (£250 per quarter for those that aren't a % of NBR). No discount for them. However, the £500 PPL fee is for any broadcaster, so totally new entrants do benefit from PPL's minimux rate!
There IS confusion over the status of these licences. RSLs are 28 days and you would think that these 9 month trials would be seen in the same way. Launch on DAB early September, cease early May. But I do know some have an impression that this may not necessarily be the case and what happens after this period is still a matter to be decided (rather in the manner that CR licences are nominally 'only' for 5 years but extentions then happen).
As has been alluded to above, the winner of the Glasgow MUX for example is bringing GO Radio to the city.....i.e a city-wide service based on an idea around for more than a decade. As you may know there are job ads on here for it....seemingly offering quite decent rates....... and there is nothing on them to suggest it is only for 9 months.
In any event many of the broadcasters who will be on these trials are small scale ILR and CR FMers who will enjoy a much larger area on DAB during the trials so PPL's stance of wanting extra fees for this isn't unreasonable.
Has PPL said anything about the extension of the trials? Is the £500 covering the next two years or is there more money to pay?
£716+VAT per year.
Plus £131+VAT per year for each additional mux, but the total fee is capped at £1304+VAT per year.
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