Please don’t stop the music!

WITH the festive season over, charities and community groups are counting the cost of staging annual social events, as well as planning for next year’s.

But organisers might have to tighten their belts in 2010, following a Government decision to charge charities for the right to play music at social functions.

Until now, charities have been able to play any recorded sound or music at community events free of charge.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, third sector organisations are exempt from having to pay for a PPL licence, which regulates the playing of recorded music for broadcast, public performance and media.

But come April those exemptions will be removed, meaning charities will have to pay for both a PPL licence and a PRS licence (a performance licence, which charities have always had to pay for).

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So whether it is a disco at a youth centre or a group of volunteers in a charity shop listening to the radio, a fee will be charged.

According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the additional music charges could cost UK charities as much as �20m per year, and is calling on the Government to reconsider its decision.

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And charities in Times Territory have also criticised the move.

For 36 years, Sean Cox has run The Mixed Group, a charity that organises a Christmas Day meal for the lonely and elderly in and around Welwyn Hatfield.

Mr Cox said: “It’s just a case of charities being forced to spend more money on pointless bureaucracy, when we’d rather keep it and put it towards the actual running of our social events.”

A spokesman for PPL said that charities would be able to buy a joint PPL and PRS licence, allowing a smooth transition into the new system.

“What we want to do is make the joint licensing scheme as simple as possible for small charities and community groups,” he said.

He added that the cost of a new licence would vary depending on the size of the charity, but would roughly cost between �55 and �75 a year.

But Brenda Beach, who runs the Gateway Club, a weekly social evening for adults with learning difficulties, said: “I think it’s cheeky.

“It’s making more red tape for voluntary organisations.

“It’s a lot of money when you add it to all the other things we have to pay out for. There’s not much to go around and now we have to pay for a music licence. It’s a joke.”

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