How broadcaster blanket licenses really work

What are broadcaster blanket licenses?

In most countries, television broadcasters have so called “blanket licences” with their local music collection societies. For example, in the UK the BBC, SKY and ITV and other broadcasters have agreements with PRS (for the songs and other musical works) and PPL (for commercial sound recordings). Each broadcaster pays an annual pre-agreed fee so that the music they wish to use in their programmes is pre-cleared with no further approvals required from copyright owners. The agreements also cover VOD (“catch up”).

Broadcaster blanket licences do not cover everything!

There are lots of exceptions to the broadcaster blanket agreements both in the UK and internationally. For example, unauthorised adaptations of pre-existing musical works such as parodies and other comedic versions of songs, Grand Rights works (music composed for ballet, opera and stage musicals) and music used for opening and/or closing credits and signature tunes.

And don’t forget overseas sales

So whilst most people consider that the BBC can use any music as much as they like, there are restrictions. Further when programmes are sold overseas, unless worldwide clearance has been obtained in advance from the relevant rights owners, the original music will often have to be replaced. Common alternatives are specially composed music or  Production (Library) Music. Alternatively, TV production companies can negotiate Secondary Sales Agreements with PRS and PPL but only if there is enough commercial music in a programme to make it worthwhile going through this fairly onerous process. This is one of many areas where Musicalities can help make a producer’s life easier so do not hesitate to ask us.

Why not try clearing the music rights yourself?

And if you want to ‘do it yourself”, much of what you might want to know about clearing rights for TV, film, online and DVD is included in Musicalities’ modestly titled The DVD Music Licensing Guide available for free here. The Guide is approved by PRS for Music, MCPS, the BPI (The British Recorded Music Industry) and the Musicians’ Union so don’t hesitate to request a copy from us and find out whats involved!


What do you think?


“Ivan was extremely skillful in guiding us through the process of acquiring music rights for our digital programme. From start to finish he advised us promptly and clearly on the steps in the process to clear each of our chosen tracks and acquired the clearances we needed in the very tight timeline we had. I would thoroughly recommend his services.”

Niamh Dilworth, Senior Producer, Unicorn Theatre

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