Strictly No Dancing – Lord Mandelson hits churches and other religious buildings with a £20 million music tax
Churches, charities, scout huts, village halls and sports clubs face new £20 million levy on music thanks to Lord Mandelson, who also happens to be a Church Commissioner.
Christmas discos and dances in community buildings across the country face this puritanical tax as it has been revealed in the small print of obscure new regulations which abolish charities’ and voluntary groups’ exemption from music licensing rules – hitting them with a multi-million pound bill for holding events with recorded music.
Charities and non-for-profit groups have had a long-standing exemption from paying for a so-called 'PPL' performance rights licence for playing recorded music on their premises. This exemption reflects the public benefit that such voluntary organisations provide to their communities. This PPL exemption is being abolished by Labour.
This will affect charity discos, tea dances, youth clubs, salsa dancing groups, sports clubs, coffee mornings and even charity shops (which have a radio in their staff room). The changes are being imposed by the ‘Intellectual Property Office’ which is part of Lord Mandelson’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills empire. The new levy will come into effect in April 2010 subject to the new regulations being ratified by Parliament.
The Government’s own impact assessment admits that it will cost voluntary groups £20 million a year. Some organisations will ‘cease playing music’ because they cannot afford a licence, and it will hit a quarter of a million organisations - 140,000 charities, 6,750 charity shops, 66,440 sports clubs, 4,000 community buildings, 5,000 rural halls and 45,000 religious buildings.
The Government’s own response to the consultation has also admitted:
‘The performance of religious music at religious gatherings would be affected adversely’ (p5).
‘Respondents from religious organisations believed that removal of the exemption would result in a relatively negligible increase in royalties for collecting societies. They anticipated that many such organisations would decide that the expense and paperwork involved in applying for a licence could not be justified, despite music being an intrinsic part of their culture and heritage. Currently PRS has a voluntary exemption for divine worship and civil wedding/partnership ceremonies. Under Option 1 all religious organisations would be required to obtain a licence from PPL’ (p9).
‘Charities are being asked to meet more and more of society’s needs with less money. One large charity claimed that licence fees could rise to 10 times the current cost if PPL licences are required. They suggested that (based on the impact assessment) the benefit to PPL members is half (or less) of the additional cost placed on charitable organisations. The level of increased costs would require serious consideration as to whether music can continue to be used. It was felt that PPL was unlikely to introduce preferential rates for charities. Some felt that Option 1 would lead to a fall in fundraising and a clear reduction in public benefits from charities’ work’ (p8).
‘The additional costs of licensing might threaten charity shops’ existence as it would not be seen as a good use of charitable funds to pay for music but removal of music would impact on numbers of volunteers and customers’ (p8).
‘Most clubs indicated that they would remove the provision for music and television if Option 1 were implemented, as the cost would be disproportionate to usage levels and might endanger the viability of the club. Some suggested that many clubs would continue playing music out of ignorance or defiance or may resort to playing music that is out of copyright’(p8).
Nick Hurd MP, Shadow Minister for Charities, said: “This is another Labour assault on the fabric of British community life. Having shut down post offices and local pubs, Labour’s Whitehall bureaucrats now have village halls, scout huts and churches in their sights. This is a heartless tax on Christmas discos and tea dances in community buildings across the country. Peter Mandelson’s Christmas message is strictly no dancing to struggling charities this winter.”
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations are running a 'Don't Stop the Music' campaign to highlight the effect of this £20 million levy on the voluntary and community sector.
If readers and communicants wish to preserve the ubiquitous free festive Cliff songs at Christmas (which will be of particular concern to Iain Dale), Cranmer exhorts you to support the ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ campaign.
And His Grace will look into initiating a ‘Remove Lord Mandelson as a Church Commissioner’ campaign because he is becoming more than a little irritating.