Licence demands not music to Rob’s ears

Coldstream pet shop owner Rob Smith has been contacted by the PPL who issue licences to work premises.
Coldstream pet shop owner Rob Smith has been contacted by the PPL who issue licences to work premises.

A business owner has taken a stand against PPL after they tried to charge him for using a radio used in his office and then told him he’d also need a licence for his work van.

Prior to a few weeks ago, Rob Smith, owner of Howdens Pet Store, had never had any dealings with the music regulator but a phone call out of the blue demanding he buy a licence for his radio rattled his cage.

It’s not unusual for businesses to have to pay a fee for broadcasting music but Rob said the big difference is,that his radio had never been for the benefit of his customers.

“I understand that big supermarkets who play music for their customers to enjoy should have to pay a licence but my radio was in my office and wouldn’t be audible to anyone on the shop floor or at the till.

“£145 is a lot for a small business to pay so I said I’d just not have the radio on anymore.”

Rob wrote to PPL telling them he’d be ceasing to use the radio and thought that would be the end of the matter but then he received a call to ask if he had any work vehicle that he played the radio in as that too would require a licence.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Rob continued.

“But technically a work van is considered a place of work and if you have a passenger or drive with the window down people will be able to hear the music and would therefore need a licence.

“I told them I’d go to work on a bike from now on- there’s no way I was paying it but how were they going to check anyway?”

Rob vented his frustrations on Facebook and his followers quickly expressed their disbelief at PPL’s actions. Hundreds of people took to the social networking site to lend their support to his cause and Rob’s case has also been backed by John Lamont who has written to PPL.

The MSP commented: Whilst no one would want to deprive musicians of an income when they produce a popular song, I believe that most people will find the application of these rules in this case to be bizarre. To suggest that shopkeepers should face these high fees simply because they are playing a radio is a nonsense and needs to be reviewed. It is neither fair or proportionate.”

“At a time when many of our small shops and businesses are struggling to keep going, this extra cost is the last thing they need.”

A spokesperson for PPL said as far as the organisation were concerned the matter had been resolved and there was never any request made in relation to a work van.

They commented: ‘PPL works on behalf of tens of thousands of performers and record companies to license the playing in public of recorded music. PPL contacted Mr Smith to discuss the use of recorded music in his workplace and after subsequent dialogue the matter has been resolved with Mr Smith directly.”