Looking Ahead to 2017

The start of a New Year always seems an appropriate moment to catch up on the main events of the previous 12 months and cast ahead to plans afoot for those to come. So, here we go…

Since the election of David John to the freshly-reinstated Audio Seat on Council, he has been working hard to represent members working in Audio at Council meetings and to communicate back to members both online and in person at different studio locations – and, indeed, on this blog. For more from David, please see below. **

The Radio Commercials Working Party was formed and met for the first time in the summer. One aim was to negotiate a rate rise for 2017 with a number of Radio groups. A modest rise was agreed with each group involved. For the first time, Working Party members took part in some of the negotiations, which allowed an opportunity to discuss the other chief aim of reviewing the entire system, and hopefully have something more manageable and less complex in place for 2018. Meetings continue and the work will be ongoing throughout the year.

In September, several members of the Committee met with the BBC Director-General, Lord Tony Hall, in which he insisted that Radio remains “phenomenally important” to the BBC and that there is “a global opportunity to lead the world in audio”. This was echoed publicly in November when Lord Hall spoke to the media about his vision for a Netflix-style service for BBC radio content. We have remained in contact with the DG’s office and are currently exploring ideas to work with the BBC to help raise the profile of Radio.

Finally, many months of work have gone into the planning, writing, layout and production of a brand new Equity publication. We are very excited about The Equity Guide to Audio Work, which will, we hope, answer lots of questions and provide plenty of relevant information for members old and new. Look out for a Spring launch!

** A NOTE FROM DAVID JOHN
Happy New Year to everyone and I hope 2017 brings plenty of work. I’ve found sitting on the Equity Council as the Audio representative both enlightening and interesting. I can report that the Council and the Equity Staff Members work extremely hard in this difficult climate to forward the interests of all Equity members. One of my main priorities is to raise the profile of Audio work in general and report to Council on all the hard work done by the Audio Committee. I feel that this is going well and I’ve spoken at Council several times and had many conversations with my fellow Council members many of whom don’t work in Audio. They all seem to be gaining an understanding of our world and are generally very supportive.

I’m delighted with the setting up of the Radio Commercials Working Party and the hard work that they’re doing. Also the sterling work from the Chair of the Audio Committee Sheila Mitchell on our push for raising the profile of and proper funding for Radio Drama, a jewel in the BBC crown. We plan more meetings with DG Tony Hall and the new head of radio at the BBC James Purnell.

In Spring we have the launch of our Guide to Audio Work and elections for the next term of the Audio Committee so please consider standing if you feel you have something to offer. I particularly would like to see some younger members stand for the committee as well as members from different ethnic backgrounds. Diversity is very important to me and Equity and as things stand the Committee is far from diverse.

In May we have the Annual Representative’s Conference and I will be there banging the drum for Audio so if any members want issues raised please do get in touch with me or the Audio Committee and we will do our best for you.

Time is running out!

If you haven’t voted yet in the Equity Council Elections you must get your ballot paper in by noon on the 6th July. Please be aware that the Audio Committee put in a lot of hard work to ensure that the Audio Seat on Council has been reinstated. We (The Audio Committee) believe that this gives us (Audio Artists) the opportunity to have a strong voice on Council and to raise important issues quickly at the very top of the union. It also gives the Audio Councillor the opportunity to raise the profile of Audio work at Equity, something that I feel is very important. It is a growing part of our industry and sustains many of us in the business. There is a lot of work to do in the coming years to protect and improve our hard fought agreements on rates and working conditions and I would relish the opportunity to take on this role. If you haven’t voted yet, please read my statement in the election booklet and consider giving me your vote.

David John

The Days of the ARC

If the blog has been quiet of late, it isn’t because nothing has been happening. Quite the reverse. Since the start of the year, the Committee has been progressing with, among other things, a working party to look at radio commercials, a team to negotiate rates with the BBC, and a booklet to provide information and guidance for members who work in the Audio industry. More on all of these in future blogs.

One of the key jobs of Equity committees and branches is to formulate motions to be sent each year to the A.R.C. (Annual Representatives’ Conference). The A.R.C. is where rules and regulations are made and altered, policies formed and campaigns launched.

At the 2015 conference, the Audio Committee tabled a motion to reinstate an Audio Seat to Equity’s governing Council. One of the chief objections at the time was that regulations stipulated that a referendum would be required in order to make this happen, and that this would be a costly undertaking. However, the motion and then the referendum were both carried overwhelmingly
and the Audio Seat reinstated. Elections are now underway and we look forward to having a dedicated representative back on Council in July of this year.

With that in mind, the Audio Committee has this year agreed a motion requesting that, in future, changes to internal rules may be carried out by achieving a two thirds majority at the ARC without the need for a subsequent referendum. Added to that has been an amendment that suggests a trial period during which the outcomes of any changes might be assessed.

The A.R.C. 2016 is in Bristol form 21st-23rd May, and there will be at least two members of the Audio Committee attending to propose and second the motion, as well as to discuss, debate and vote on motions brought by other committees and branches.

 

NOTE:  In the event, two of our members, David Corden and Sheila Mitchell, attended.  Ultimately, the motion as proposed was not carried.  Afterwards, we asked Sheila to share a few thoughts about the conference and she wrote the following:

ARC 2016 was judged a success. It was largely centred on how to improve diversity and involve the grass-roots membership but there must be a question mark over that success when, 2 months later, the turn-out in the Council elections was lower than in 2014. If only 13% or less vote in elections and our annual meeting is reserved for those who are in effect activists should we once again be looking at a radical reform that stands the chance of involving a much wider tranche of the membership? Observer status at an ARC can only be frustrating – you cannot speak or vote, only observe. Should we make room for a gathering of members living in the area, the Saturday evening when away from London and the Sunday evening for Londoners?  -SM

As we rapidly approach the latter part of the year,  it will not be long before we need to start considering next year’s Conference.  Please feel free to get in touch if you have ideas about any issues you feel should be raised.

PLR = Money for Members

 

For the first time ever over the past few weeks, fortunate Equity audiobook readers have been receiving notice of the fairly substantial payments they will receive for PLR on books they have recorded – some payments running into the thousands of pounds. This is thanks to Equity’s incredible efforts in winning a hard-fought battle lasting several years to get audiobook readers included in payments for library borrowed audiobooks. Many of you may never have heard of PLR, or even realize that you may also be eligible for payments, so read on for more information.

What is PLR?

PLR stands for Public Lending Right and is the right to payment for anyone who has contributed to a book that is lent out by the British and Irish library systems. Dating from 1979, the scheme was originally intended for authors only; however, in recent years, Equity has fought for the right for audiobook readers to be recognized as well, and as of 2014, audiobook readers have been able to register to receive a share of payments, alongside illustrators, photographers, translators, and editors.

How Does It Work?

PLR is calculated on the basis of a rate per loan – in other words, there is a payment for each time a book is borrowed – with the loans data being taken from a sample of UK public libraries which changes every year. An audiobook reader will receive 20 percent of the loan rate, 10 percent if the book was multi-voiced. The current rate is 7.67 pence. This may not seem like very much, but once you take into account that a single book may be borrowed hundreds of times across dozens of libraries, the amounts begin to add up.

PLR payments are made annually, the calculation year running from 1 July to 30 June of the following year. Do note that PLR payments are not retrospective, so the sooner you sign up the better. You must have registered by 30 June to be eligible for the respective calculation year’s payments.

Who is Eligible?

As of 2014, if you have recorded a book in any hard copy format – cassette, CD, MP3 CD, etc. – which is on loan in a UK library, you are eligible to register for PLR. Do note that Kindle, Amazon Audible, and other audiobooks that are only available as streamed or electronic files are not covered by the scheme. However, there is no time limit as to when you recorded the book, so even if you recorded a book on cassette 20 years ago, it may still be eligible for payment.

How Do I Register?

The process can take up to several days when you initially set up your account, so don’t leave it until the last minute to register. To apply, first go to www.plr.uk.com, and click on “Apply for a UK PLR Online Account.” You will then be prompted to fill in your details, including your bank details, which they need in order to pay you. After you submit all your information, you will then receive a confirmation email prompting you to print a “Certificate and Declaration Form.” This form is essentially to prove that you are who you say you are, so therefore you will need to fill it in and post it along with proof of ID to PLR – a quaint but surprisingly secure method. The ID documents accepted include items such as utility or phone bills sent to your home address, so you don’t need to mail a passport or drivers’ license.

Once your documents have been received and logged by PLR, they will email you with an online User ID and activate your account, at which point you can begin to log the titles that you have voiced.

This is where the fun begins, as you will need to provide the ISBN number for each version of each book you have ever recorded – i.e. cassette, CD, MP3 CD, etc. You can often find these by going to the publishers’ websites or doing a search on Amazon. Do remember, however, that Amazon Audible and Kindle books are not eligible for PLR, nor are books read for the RNIB. If you are an especially experienced or prolific reader, this may seem like an onerous task, but you only have to do it once for each book, and it is definitely worth it in the end.

With your account up and running, you can enter in new titles at any time, though you will need to do so by 30 June each year.

Further Information

More information about PLR can be found on their website, www.plr.uk.com or at www.plrinternational.com. If you have any questions as an Equity member, contact Audio Organiser Cathy Sweet at csweet@equity.org.uk or the Audio Committee at info@equityaudio.org

Related articles:

https://www.plr.uk.com/mediaCentre/mediaReleases/feb2016(2).pdf

After the Referendum

Thank you to everyone who voted in the referendum. It was agreed by an 84% majority that the Audio Artists’ reserved seat on the Equity Council should be brought back – a resounding success for all of us working in Audio!

So, the question may well be what difference will it make?

The specialist committees, of which the Audio Committee is one, are intended to focus on matters directly relevant to the area of the industry in which they work. This means raising issues that are affecting members, working with Equity officials to negotiate with employers, and helping to shape Union policy by formulating motions to be proposed at the Annual Representative Conference, (ARC).

However, it is Equity’s main Council that is the driving force. While the committees meet four times a year, Council meets at least twelve times a year, enabling a much more ready response to any matters that arise which have a direct effect on members.

And if those of us working in audio sometimes feel that our voices are not being heard, having a representative on Council – and having an indisputable mandate from members to be there – sends a strong message.

The next Council elections take place in 2016. If you would like to consider standing, nominations open in February and close in May.

And whether or not you stand, please make sure you vote; polling will be in June and July.

We have a voice. Now, let’s crank up the volume!

Why to Vote Yes in the Referendum

You should have all received your Equity Winter Magazine by now. The Audio Committee has worked extremely hard to achieve this referendum over the past year as we believe strongly that we as a group (Audio Artists) should be represented on Council as we historically have been. Council spoke against it at the Annual Conference,mainly because of the cost involved in holding a referendum, but we won the argument and achieved a two thirds majority amongst delegates to have the question put to a referendum. Now Council are supporting a YES vote. We believe strongly that it is in the interest of all Audio Artists to have this representation at every Council meeting.

The main argument against is that the Audio Committee would lose one of its members and that it would be “a waste of activist talent”. This is not in fact true. There is a separate election for Council and any of you would be able to stand for the Audio Box. If a Committee Member does stand and succeed, they would have to attend the Audio Committee meetings in their new capacity and would only lose voting rights at the Committee meetings.

We are a growing part of the industry and many issues arise on a regular basis that need prompt action so we believe that having a pair of “Audio Ears” at every Council meeting is imperative!

PLEASE VOTE YES!

Best,

David John
Vice Chair Equity Audio Committee

Welcome to the Equity Audio Blog

The intention on these pages is to keep members – and visitors – updated on what we are doing, as well as to discuss issues affecting us, our Union and our industry. We’ll be posting regularly and linking to our Twitter feed, with the goal of expanding our presence across social media and offering members quick and easy access to relevant news and information, as well as ways to communicate directly with us and with the Union as a whole.

Over the coming weeks, we will introduce ourselves individually, talk through our aims and objectives, and explain a bit more about how we see the role of the Committee.  We would also like this blog to become a resource, gradually building a library of guides, articles, links, and anything else that members may find useful and be able to refer to at will.

But our very first blog is also a call to action. Members have now received voting papers with the Winter 2015 issue of the Equity magazine.

PLEASE VOTE IN THE REFERENDUM

The Rule change being requested is to restore an Audio representative to the Union’s governing Council.

It’s a request that won overwhelming support at this year’s Annual Representative Conference. Regulations require a referendum before it can happen.

We’re here because you voted for us and we will be working hard to raise the profile of our corner of the industry.  Having a seat on Council will ensure that there is an Audio Artist to represent our particular needs and concerns, to explain the issues that most affect us and how we believe they should be resolved. In other words, it’s about giving Voices an extra voice.

PLEASE VOTE YES!
The Equity Audio Committee