Row Deepens between Bulgaria's Public Radio, Copyright Organization

Society | January 4, 2017, Wednesday // 11:28
Bulgaria: Row Deepens between Bulgaria's Public Radio, Copyright Organization The Bulgarian National Radio's building in downtown Sofia.

The Bulgarian National Radio and copyright organization Musicautor remain at loggerheads over music fees, with officials being cautious in their reaction.

Since January 01, the public radio is barred from playing more than 14 000 000 musical pieces from around the world and plays mostly classical music, jazz and folklore music.

Until the end of last year, the BNR used to pay 1% of its state subsidy (the broadcaster is funding through budget allocations and not fees from taxpayers) and 4.55% of its revenues from commercials on an annual basis.

But Musicautor demands a gradual threefold increase, boosting the BNR's contributions over three or four years to reach levels near the average ones in Europe - a model the organization says is now applied for private radio stations. It says it tried to settle the issue through talks with the BNR's management during 2016, but received no feedback and was forced to suspend its contract with the radio.

Nowhere in Europe does a public broadcaster pay just 1% of its subsidy as royalties to Musicautor, the share being 3.25% in Romania, 2.2% in Greece, 4.5% in Estonia, and 5% in Italy, Musicautor insists.

Musicautor also accuses the BNR of "denigrating" the value of musical content it plays by refusing to accept the previous fee was a fair enough amount of royalties to the authors.

On Wednesday, the organization also claimed the BNR was "misleading" the public as it had played more than 50 songs whose copyright is held by Musicautor despite vowing not to do so.

Aleksadar Velev, who heads the public radio, however insists the demand from Musicautor is a burden on its budget and "does not rest on economic realities". He accuses the organization of abusing its monopoly over copyright and warns if the radio were to agree, it would have to take one of its regional programs off air, infringing on the public interest.

Lawmakers from the Reformist Bloc on Wednesday submitted an inquiry to outgoing Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov, asking him on the measures he might take to help settle the dispute.

Rashidov himself sent letters to both sides to urge dialogue.

But the BNR published the text of his letter, showing the ministry is yet to affirm the fees asked by the copyright organization.

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Tags: BNR, Bulgarian National Radio, Musicautor, royalties, Aleksandar Velev

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