NUS clash with PPL over proposed rise in licensing fee

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A proposed rise in the fee students’ unions would have to pay to Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) has been recently abandoned following pressure from the National Union of Students (NUS), Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) and other groups. The intended rise was to increase up to 2500% on their Specially Featured Entertainment Licensing fee (SFE).

This fee is integral to the workings of the Students’ Union, allowing the playing of music by DJs in college bars and also in Sugarhouse.

Lobbying from many outraged groups, including LUSU and the NUS, has forced the proposal to be dropped in talks until 2013; similar, if not more catastrophic proposals however, could come in the future. In a statement, the NUS have declared the proposal to be “an astronomical, illogical and unjustified percentage increase.”

Currently an average students’ union will pay around £4000 in fees to PPL, but they wish to change this to an average of a staggering £70,000.

LUSU Vice President (Events and Democracy) Olly Trumble released a statement highlighting the large impact this would have on Lancaster. This stated clearly that “it would be financially unviable to keep the Sugarhouse open if such a fee increase were to occur.”

The NUS reinforces the point that a campus, such as Lancaster, which is miles from town, has a responsibility to its students to create a “safe social space”, such as the students union, and the fee increase could threaten this.

Third year Lonsdale student Jenni Nowell commented that “it is just not feasible with the cuts in higher education to raise the fee by such a ridiculous margin and it would be a shame if students were to miss out on listening to the music they want.”

LUSU and other students’ unions have recently acquired a charity status and should, therefore, be exempt from such fees, but PPL chose to include them in this planned rise which has caused understandable disagreement between the parties. The NUS, it is felt, are an organisation dedicated to the welfare and life of its students, and the students’ unions which form it are in place to enable and facilitate the social and academic lives of their students.

LUSU considers PPL’s actions to be “an aggressive monopolization of [their] position as the main licensing body in the UK.”

With the current economic climate and cuts in higher education, a rise in such an important fee would be devastating, not only to LUSU, but to a large number of other students’ unions. LUSU feels it is important that “aggressive monopolies of this market do not destroy the operation of our limited services and ultimately the Students’ Union.”

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