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BBC TV’S BLANKET BAN ON U.S. MUSIC

The BBC is said to have issued what is virtually a blanket ban on the use of North American repertoire on its TV shows that are distributed stateside. It’s a boon for British songwriters, who’ll get more attention than they did previously for sync opportunities in some of the U.K.’s most-watched TV programmes, but U.S. writers are likely to be left out in the cold.

The decision is down to ongoing renegotiations for the BBC’s blanket license with collection society PRS for Music and a number of BBC Worldwide's licenses with its mechanical royalty counterpart MCPS. The blanket license covers the Beeb for the use of PRS/MCPS repertoire on non-commercial public service activities including TV, radio and online services like its iPlayer. The worldwide deals mean PRS and MCPS members get paid when BBC programmes on which their music appear are played, and downloaded, outside of the U.K.

Those agreements have now expired. While negotiations for their renewal take place, the existing licences will be extended for six months until 12/31—with one caveat. The MCPS Board has asked that the BBC seek prior approval from publishers for the use of North American repertoire in programmes that are sold into the U.S. and Canada on a trial basis through services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play. That creates a lot of extra hassle for the BBC, which will now have to seek permission to use music from every artist that has a direct membership to U.S. societies like ASCAP, BMI, SOCAN or Kobalt's AMRA.

Explains our source: “If you’re producing a TV show which has four or five episodes a week and you have to start reaching out to every person with a track that features, it’s a lot of work. It’s undesirable in terms of the process. So the BBC are making a conscious effort to stick with British music to avoid licensing conflicts.”

There's also the issue of payment—sync deals in the U.S. are typically cleared with an upfront fee and can earn upwards of $20k. In the U.K., that figure is closer to £1k, and with no upfront fee. As a public service broadcaster, the BBC has limited cash, and is unlikely to be able to afford the fees U.S. publishers might demand when given the chance to negotiate licenses directly.

It's not the first time the Beeb has run into issues relating to the licensing of U.S. repertoire. Last year, before making some of its content available to download offline (when the MCPS copying right comes into play), it issued a ban on using tracks by Neil Young and The Doors and Journey after the two bands instructed U.K. rep Wixen to remove their rights from the MCPS.

While it's a new restriction for the BBC, it does bring them into line with independent media firms that have had this requirement for a number of years.  Is this the end of the BBC enjoying near-unlimited use of North American music? Stay tuned.

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