When Crikey broke news last week of recording artists’ attempt to loosen the commercial radio industry’s stranglehold over copyright royalties, it didn’t take long for the industry to fight back.

The Australianreports today that the hugely profitable industry has taken its case to the government via the Attorney-General’s Department, crying poor and claiming an end to its cosy statutory copyright deal will bring sackcloth and ashes to its door:

The industry’s lobby group, Commercial Radio Australia, claims increased copyright payments would drive struggling country stations to the wall. It’s trying to maintain a system administerd by the A-G’s Department, which sets fees paid by commercial radio for broadcast of copyright music (and that’s just about all of it) at levels substantially lower than comparable markets overseas — 1% in Australia, between 2% and 4% overseas. It’s been like that for 36 years as part of the Copyright Act, and don’t the FM radio networks love it.

The bottom line is that the entire radio sector generates $770 million a year in revenue, but commercial radio’s yearly bill for broadcasting the music that sustains it is only $2.75 million, according to the artists’ representative, the Phonographic Performance Comany of Australia. CRA disputes that figure in its submission, saying it paid $18 million in 2002-03.

The Government’s attitude will be interesting, particularly with its post-election push to cut regulation and red tape. Will it take the side of the entrenched business interests, or will it seek to remove a regulatory road block to fair payment and competition? Policy wonks and battling recording artists await with keen interest.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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