BSkyB, RTL Group Face EU Antitrust Complaint on TV Rights

British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY), ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (PSM) and Bertelsmann AG’s RTL Group SA are among broadcasters named in an antitrust complaint to the European Commission over music publishing rights.

The European Composer and Songwriter Alliance accused broadcasters of coercing composers to cede publishing rights as a precondition for contracts to write music for television, the group told reporters in Brussels today. It said the complaint was filed last month.

Composers can lose as much as 80 percent of potential royalties for music used in television programs when they are told to assign copyright to a publishing company owned by or selected by a television company, said Dutch composer Johan van der Voet. Broadcasters and production companies collude on the practice which “has been exploding” over the past decade, he said.

“As freelance workers often obliged to conduct their own contractual negotiations, composers are ill-equipped to defend themselves against the powerful bodies upon whom they rely for their work,” the composers’ group said in a statement.

Julian Geist, a spokesman for Unterfoerhring, Germany-based ProSiebenSat.1, said the complaint is “not justified” because the company pays to use a large number of compositions in its television programs that it doesn’t hold the rights to.

Berlusconi’s Mediaset

“Obviously we do not only work with composers if they cede their rights to us,” Geist said in an e-mail.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the Brussels-based commission, declined to comment beyond confirming receipt of the complaint.

The complaint targets Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset SpA (MS), ITV Plc (ITV) and several German and Dutch production companies. It also cites public-service broadcasters the British Broadcasting Corp., France’s TF1, Germany’s ZDF and ARD, the Netherlands’ NTR and Italy’s RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana SpA.

Arthur Schuitemaker, NTR’s head of marketing and communications, declined to comment on the details of the complaint. Mediaset and the BBC also declined to comment.

BSkyB, RTL, ITV and RAI didn’t immediately respond to e- mails on the matter. TF1, ZDF and ARD didn’t respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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