Update on BECS’ application for membership of The Educational Recording Agency (ERA)

Upon receipt of legal advice that BECS was obliged to do so, and with the approval and support of the BECS Board and its Members, BECS has been seeking membership of ERA. This would enable BECS to collect licence fees and pay out to members of BECS and to performers who are members of overseas Societies with whom BECS has appropriate Bilateral Exchange Agreements.

ERA is the only UK organisation through which performers are currently able to seek licence fees when schools and other educational establishments record performances from broadcasts and reuse these for non-commercial educational purposes. If rights are not asserted through the ERA licence, legal exceptions to performers rights mean that no payments are due to performers for the UK educational uses covered by ERA.

Equity has always been a member of ERA and currently receives approximately £1.4m a year from ERA. However, Equity maintains that these monies are not distributable despite both the Writers’ and Directors’ collecting societies distributing their share to their members.

BECS’ application to ERA was challenged by Equity and, as a result, a Disputes Resolution Procedure (DRP) was established by ERA which BECS was required to follow. This required BECS to seek legal advice and representation which incurred significant costs. The Board maintained careful oversight of costs and it was hoped that some or a significant part of the costs might be recouped if BECS’ application for ERA membership was accepted.

BECS also secured strong support from overseas Societies who were informed of the background to BECS’ application.

The expert appointed to rule at the DRP took a very narrow view of the scope of BECS’ current Articles and what is permitted by the current wording. On this basis it was ruled that the current BECS Articles did not support BECS being granted membership of ERA. However, having made this decision, the expert recorded that BECS had made a legitimate claim and had acted in good faith.

During the DRP it became clear that Equity claims to represent all audio-visual performers in the context of its membership of ERA, both members of the union and also non-members. Whilst the DRP did not rule on this matter, it remains a concern of the BECS Board that since 2008 Equity has been collecting significant sums for performers who are not or who have never been members of Equity without distributing them.

The BECS Board and the Supervisory Committee acting for BECS members remains committed to represent the best interests of all its members, regardless of Equity Union membership. BECS also wishes to continue to develop its relationship with overseas Societies under BECS’ representation / bilateral agreements.

As a result of the ruling BECS will present proposals to amend its Articles and any linked mandated documents in order to be able to carry out the wishes of our members and collect all revenues available to be distributed to you.

Yours faithfully,

The BECS Board