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Crackdown on free music hits charities

PUBLISHED: 16:24 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:22 23 August 2010

CHARITY bosses have blasted a new law that will see them hit with crippling charges to play music at vital fundraising events. It is estimated the decision to force voluntary organisations to pay the Phonographic Performance Ltd license fee will cost cha

CHARITY bosses have blasted a new law that will see them hit with crippling charges to play music at vital fundraising events.

It is estimated the decision to force voluntary organisations to pay the Phonographic Performance Ltd license fee will cost charities in the south east a total of £3 million.

From April this year all charities playing music will be forced to pay the charges on top of the Performing Rights Society (PRS) fees they already pay.

Steve Hudd (pictured inset) is fundraising director at the Northfleet-based EllenorLions Hospices, which cares for terminally ill people across north Kent. He said: "We already have to pay the Performing Rights Society (PRS) around £2,000 to £3,000 so that we can play music in our charity shops, as that is the norm in shops now. And when you are running a charity shop you really want every penny to count, and convert into services for our community. So the prospect of that increasing is very negative for us.

"Like all charities we have been hit by the credit crunch. I mean we need to raise £2.9 million just to keep the services running and that's not an easy thing to do at any time, let alone during a recession."

He revealed that the charity may now have to stop playing music altogether at fund-raising events.

The youth performance charity Walk Tall, also based in Northfleet, relies heavily on the use of music. Staff and volunteers train them in media entertainment skills such as acting, dance, singing and production and stage numerous shows annually which would be subject to the charge. Over the years it has seen youngsters train at the charity and go on to secure roles in television shows and theatre.

Chief Executive Ann Duke slammed the ruling, saying: "It is really sad especially when it affects groups like us who are there to help young people and children. It is so short sighted.

"I can understand people need to raise extra revenue but they are taking it from those who can least afford it."

A campaign led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Association of Charity Shops (ACS) is lobbying ministers, members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords to block the move.

David Moir, head of policy and public affairs at ACS said: "It is unfair and unworkable and it will take funds away from charities at a time when those funds are needed more than ever before. It is that simple." continued on page 2

Liz Atkins, head of public policy at NCVO, added that many smaller charities unable to pay for a licence will be forced to cancel events, meaning that "charity discos, fetes or quizzes could disappear under the new rules."

National charity Scope, which focuses on caring for those with Cerebral Palsy, says their shops, like the one in Gravesend, will be affected.

Andrew Adair, Director of Retail at disability Scope, said: "We are very concerned by the proposals, as we already pay about £85 per shop for a Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence to play music in our shops and will be faced with an extra charge of about £80 per shop for a PPL licence.

"While we recognise that musicians and performers should receive a fair reward for their creative work, we think that special consideration should be given to charities, voluntary and community organisations, because of their contribution to society."

A government spokesman was unavailable for comment as The Reporter went to press.

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