Commercial radio and music industry bodies face-off over copyright fees

ARIA Charts

“If PPCA wants more money in the pockets of Australian musicians, then it should pay them a bigger share of the fees.”

Australia’s peak radio, audio and recording industry bodies are going head-to-head over a proposed amendment to a 55-year-old copyright legislation.

The Copyright Legislation Amendment (Fair Pay for Radio Play) Bill 2023, aims to amend the  Copyright Act 1968  and remove restrictions and caps around pay rates for sound recording royalties paid by radio companies.

Commercial Radio & Audio (CRA) have labelled the bill “an unfair fee hike” arguing an increase in the $40 million annual fees already paid by commercial radio companies would “threaten the sustainability of local stations.”

Ford Ennals, the chief executive officer of Commercial Radio & Audio (CRA), said the copyright cap ensures the system is fair.

“No one argues that Australian musicians should not be paid for their talent and hard work but commercial radio is already paying a full and fair amount.”

Ennals said commercial radio is a “vital promotional platform for Australian artists” however increasing costs could damage the entire music industry.  

However, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and Phonographic  Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) have hit back at CRA claiming the outdated legislation, which caps recording royalties at 1% of commercial radio revenue, is unfair to musicians.

ARIA and PPCA claim commercial radio has built “a successful business model around the use of recordings, yet it pays very little for their use.” While commercial radio earns around $1 billion in advertising revenue, it “only pays” $4.4 million in copyright fees.

Annabelle Herd, the chief executive officer of ARIA and PPCA, said: “Legislation should not restrict the value of a sound recording, particularly when it puts our local recording artists at a disadvantage in their home market. We are not asking to dictate unreasonable fees; we are simply asking for the right to fairly negotiate a correct rate recognising the work of recording artists. 

“Currently recording artists are subsidising a billion-dollar industry while many struggle to achieve sustainable careers themselves. In a nation that prides itself on giving everyone a fair go, recording artists deserve fair pay,” said Herd.

Yet Ennals argued it was the PPCA’s responsibility to pay Australian musicians more money.

“If PPCA wants more money in the pockets of Australian musicians, then it should pay them a bigger share of the fees it is already collecting,” he said.

“Why should stations be forced to pay more when multinational music giants worth more than 40 times the Australian radio industry refuse to hand over the full amount to their artists?”

The music and audio industry stoush is the latest public spat by industry bodies ahead of proposed government legislation.

The TV industry trade bodies Free TV Australia and ASTRA are currently locked in a battle over the prominence of local TV channels on home screens and remote controls.

Free TV Australia wants legislation to ensure manufacturers provide access to all Australia’s TV channels as well as priority placement for local TV apps and free local Tv content.

However, Astra, the subscription TV body, is firmly against any government mandates and has launched an ad campaign that carries the claim, “the government wants to control your TV”.

See also: Free TV has stepped up its battle for prominence with new campaign for visibility on CTV

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