BBC wants 'fair deal' with Welsh musicians

Rhodri Talfan Davies Rhodri Talfan Davies praises team at Radio Cymru

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Rhodri Talfan Davies says the BBC is 'moving heaven and earth' to try to settle a dispute with Eos, a body representing Welsh language musicians.

The director of BBC Wales admitted to staff in an email on Wednesday that the prolonged disagreement over royalty payments was threatening the future of Radio Cymru, which has been forced to cut its airtime and play classical music and hymns instead of pop and rock.

Talfan Davies said the BBC had done 'everything within their means to facilitate a resolution' and that it was committed to agreeing a 'fair deal'. But a settlement could not be secured 'at any price', he insisted.

'We cannot fix some of the big challenges facing Welsh language music single-handedly, and it would not be a reasonable use of the licence fee to do so.'

New alliance

The dispute dates back to 2006 when the Performing Rights Society - which used to set and collect royalties on behalf of the Welsh musicians - dramatically reduced the royalties for the playing of Welsh music in public venues.

It led to an alliance of Welsh musicians and composers breaking away from the PRS and launching new agency Eos last year to handle the licensing of their work.

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[Radio Cymru staff] have adapted to enormously testing circumstances with real determination and flair”

End Quote Rhodri Talfan Davies Director, BBC Wales

The switch meant that broadcasters had to agree new deals with Eos in order to play the Welsh songs.

Talfan Davies said the agency sought a 'substantially improved deal' from the BBC to offset the musicians' reduced income from the public playing of their work.

'Determination and flair'

The director praised staff at Radio Cymru, which has lost the right to broadcast around 30,000 songs, who 'find themselves in the middle of a dispute they did not create'.

'They have adapted to enormously testing circumstances with real determination and flair,' said Talfan Davies, adding: 'You will simply not meet a team anywhere that is more committed to supporting Welsh language music in all its forms.'

A meeting between Eos and the BBC on Tuesday, where new proposals from both sides were discussed, made 'some useful progress', he revealed. Further talks are planned for later this week.

'We want to settle this matter and we want to get back to doing what we do best: championing and supporting music in all its forms,' concluded the director. 'But we can only do this with a deal that is reasonable and sustainable - a deal that is fair to musicians and licence-fee payers alike.'

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