(in today’s Guardian – by mark sweeney – pic by neil crud)
BBC Radio Cymru is to cut programming by two hours and introduce English music, after failing to agree a rights deal with Welsh-language musicians which means the station cannot play 30,000 popular songs.
The world’s only full Welsh-language radio service has announced a series of cuts and changes to its programming if it fails to strike an 11th-hour royalties deal with Eos, the body representing more than 300 composers, authors and publishers in Wales.
The BBC said that from 1 January, it will cut will cut two hours from its air time – starting an hour later at 6.30am and finishing an hour earlier at 11pm – and will “expand” its daytime repertoire to try and plug the hole of not being able to play practically any Welsh music.
This will include playing popular classical and instrumental music, as well as a number of English language and international artists.
Other changes include cutting its new Welsh-music programme – C2 – by an hour.
“While Welsh-language music will continue to be the bedrock of our output, the current dispute will prevent us from playing most of our usual repertoire,” said Sian Gwynedd, head of Welsh-language programmes and services at BBC Radio Cymru. “This will clearly have a noticeable impact on the service we can deliver, but I would like to emphasise that we are doing everything possible to protect the quality of our programming despite the difficult circumstances”.
The BBC’s current broadcasting rights deal is with the Performing Rights Society and expires on 1 January.
In September, an alliance of 331 Welsh artists transferred the rights for their songs to a new body, called Eos, which aims to drive a better royalties bargain in the next deal from 1 January.
The BBC claims that Eos is asking for 10 times the amount that is paid in the existing deal with PRS.
Eos claims that a PRS policy change in 2007 led to royalty payment cuts of up to 85% for Welsh artists and that it is trying to recoup that loss in the new deal.
“It is a shame that the BBC have chosen to damage the national radio service because they are unwilling to pay a fair price for Welsh music,” said Gwilym Morus, chairman of Eos. “The last thing we want to see is any more harm done to Radio Cymru, our audience is the BBC audience. Unfortunately, I believe the BBC in London is showing a clear lack of respect towards their own staff in Wales and towards Welsh culture”.
Rhodri Talfan Davies, the director of BBC Wales, has written a letter to the BBC Trust warning that BBC Radio Cymru will break the terms of its service licence from 1 January if it cannot reach a deal with Eos.
“We are doing everything humanly possible to reach a sensible and sustainable agreement with Eos,” he said. “We hope an agreement can be reached as soon as possible”.
Elan Closs Stephens, the BBC Trust member for Wales, said that “nobody wins from this action, least of all the Radio Cymru audience”.
“This is the only full Welsh-language radio service in the world and not only does this action potentially harm the station and the BBC, but, more than anything, it harms the listeners. For the sake of the audience I hope that both parties can come back to the table and resolve this issue”.