Where to obtain my music performing right broadcast licence as a pan-European Satellite Broadcaster?

As a pan-European satellite TV broadcaster, do I have to obtain my music performing right broadcast licence to cover my broadcasting activity in the same country in which I hold my regulatory broadcast licence?

First of all, when we talk about regulatory licensing, we are referring to the licences that the national regulatory bodies grant to broadcasters that allow them to broadcast and regulate their conduct and practices according to local legislation.

Often both music performing right and regulatory licences are held in the same country however, the criteria for deciding which country are different. This can sometimes be obscured because both sets of criteria, although different, are often referred to as ‘country of origin’ principles.

For regulatory licences, although the use of ‘country of origin’ is quite common it is, effectively, shorthand for the place where a broadcaster has its head office and makes its editorial decisions. (There are further criteria that are applied if the editorial decisions are not made in the same country as the head office, but they are not relevant to this explanation.)

When it comes to broadcast licences for music performing rights, the ‘country of origin principle’ is a reference to the 1993 EU Satellite & Cable Directive.  Art. 1.2(b) of that Directive states that, the act of communication to the public by satellite:-

“occurs solely in the Member State where, under the control and responsibility of the broadcasting organization, the programme-carrying signals are introduced into an uninterrupted chain of communication leading to the satellite and down towards the earth.”

The latter was implemented into local legislation in EU Member States (including the UK prior to Brexit), and it still dictates where the act of broadcast requiring the licence takes place and, consequently, where the licence needs to be obtained.

So, based on these tests, it is possible in Europe for a channel to be regulated in one country yet acquire its music performing right licence in another. So, if you’re a pan-European satellite broadcaster moving jurisdiction to another European country for regulatory purposes, but you’re not changing the country of origin of transmission, you won’t have to seek a new broadcast licence for music performing rights.