Questions raised around MPLC licensing calls

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Do you need a licence to show live sport?

Related tags MPLC Licence Sport Football Pub & bar Pub

Licensees have been reporting phone calls from a film and television licensing body claiming, incorrectly, that they need a licence to show the Euros tournament in pubs.

A number of operators claimed to have received phone calls from the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC), in which agents have claimed they need a licence for the tournament despite live sport being exempt from the organisation's licensing coverage.

Glen Hutchinson, licensee of the Spinners Arms, Chorley, said he was contacted on the phone by MPLC: “I was specifically told by the woman on the phone that even if I had a TV licence and show sport, I had to have the MPLC licence to show it in a pub bar or restaurant if we’re showing the Euros.”

Other operators have also taken to social media to report similar conversations with MPLC agents.

However, the MPLC licence does not apply to news programmes or live sporting events, whether they are shown on subscription services or terrestrial television.

Refused to respond

Lynsey Love, heading of brand and communications at the MPLC confirmed this: “The MPLC Blanket Public Performance Licence is required when a pub is showing copyright protected film and TV content.  Live sports and live rolling news programmes do not fall under this category and so do not form part of this licence.”

However, when repeatedly asked as to why the organisation’s agents were reported to be claiming the opposite in a bid to get licensees to pay for a licence, Love refused to comment.

Steve Alton, CEO of the BII, said the claims were ‘disappointing: “For many of our members the Euros present a vital shot in the arm for trading after a poor start to the summer due to the weather. 

“It is incredibly disappointing that they are being targeted for unnecessary additional licensee fees to show the football in their pubs. Particularly at a time when they are still weathering exceptional costs of doing business.”

Love said the MPLC had agreed the following guidance with trade associations:

1. The MPLC licence fee does not apply to live broadcasts. So, if the television in your pub(s) only show live TV sport (for example Sky or BT Sport) or rolling news (such as BBC News Channel, Sky News) you do not have to pay this licence fee subject to point 3 below.  

2. The licence does apply to the vast majority of films and television programmes. So, if you show films or TV shows in your pub(s) you must pay this licence fee. This also applies to any televisions in staff areas, breakrooms etc.  

3. Therefore, to prevent liability for the fee you must have a mechanism in place to ensure that if you are showing live sport or news only, no films or TV programmes are inadvertently shown to the public. An example would be live broadcast of horse racing or tennis on terrestrial TV, the broadcast ending and the television showing a non-live programme after the sport. A protocol must be in place to ensure the TV is switched off after the live content has ended.  

  • If you’ve been contacted by the MPLC claiming you need a licence for the Euros, get in touch by emailing ed.bedington@wrbm.com

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