Bulgaria's Public Radio Brings Contemporary Music Back on Air

Society | February 26, 2017, Sunday // 12:54
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Public Radio Brings Contemporary Music Back on Air

The Bulgarian National Radio is playing music other than pre-war recordings again after hammering out an agreement with the independent rights organization that distributes the bulk of Bulgarian and foreign songs.

On Friday, the BNR announced it had reached a deal with the copyright body, nearly two months after it had to take all music recorded less than 70 years ago (this is how long copyright applies after a musician's death, under EU rules).

Its head Aleksandar Velev explained a deal had been reached with Musicautor to sign a three-year contract, gradually increasing the royalty fees over the years.

What the broadcaster had been playing since January 01 was only folklore, classical and jazz music with expired rights, alongside pop music whose copyright had been granted by composers or performers amidst the row.

The BNR and Musicautor, virtually a monopolist on the rights market holding the vast majority of rights of Bulgarian authors and others played by local radiostations, had been caught in the dispute over fees paid by the public broadcaster.

The non-profit association of composers, lyricists and music publishers had blamed the BNR for paying a meager third of what other (private) radio stations transfer as music royalties every year. It therefore suspended its contract with the radio unilaterally, effectively forcing the BNR to stop playing music composed and performed after 1946.

Musicautor demanded an increase of BGN 1.8 M in annual fees, up from BGN 0.5 M last year. 

Velev, the BNR's Director General, on the other hand maintained the demand did not match economic realities.

Some on the radio's team blame Velev for miscommunicating the dispute, with the radio falling hostage to it and its employees being unaware of the issue until the end of the year. Musicautor also argues the BNR failed to settle the dispute which had begun months earlier and could have asked the state for additional budget allocations.

Despite having a "public" status under the law, the BNR relies almost entirely on the central budget for the revenue as there is no precise taxpayers' fee.

Earlier in February, the radio reported a boost in its ratings in January amidst the row.

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Tags: Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, Musicautor
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