PAX TV Network To Composers: Join SESAC and Give Up Your Royalties If You Want to Work For Us

Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Archives) > Industry News (Archive) > PAX TV Network To Composers: Join SESAC and Give Up Your Royalties If You Want to Work For Us

Los Angeles (Film Music Magazine) — In a dramatic shift in the way television networks hire composers, the PAX cable television network has instituted policies specifying that U.S. composers hired for PAX-produced shows be a member of performing rights organization SESAC and agree to give up all writers’ royalties for airings of the shows on the PAX network, assigning them to be paid instead to PAX.
The policy was confirmed this week by industry sources and documents obtained by Film Music Magazine.
While some animation companies have insisted that officers of the company be listed as co-writers or sole writers for royalty purposes, amounting to what some in the industry label kickbacks, the PAX policy of demanding that writers on PAX-produced shows, including game shows and drama series, give up their writers royalties entirely for broadcasts on the PAX network and assign them back to PAX is unprecedented in the film and television music industry.
PAX officials had no official comment for this news story, however a PAX representative did point out that if any of the PAX shows in question are broadcast on other networks, the writers would receive their writers’ royalties from those broadcasts – that the policy of insisting that composers give up their writers’ royalties only covered broadcasts on the PAX television network itself.
In a statement to Film Music Magazine, Dennis Lord, Sr. VP of Business Affairs at SESAC said, “SESAC has not, is not and will not ever seek to coerce a composer to give up any portion of his or her writer’s share of performance income to any third party.” Lord and other SESAC officials emphasized that the PAX policy of demanding that writers give up their royalties for PAX broadcasts was not a SESAC initiative or related to SESAC.
ASCAP and BMI officials had no comment for this news story when asked about the PAX policy and ramifications on members of their organizations.
Long Term Ramifications
A prominent composer who was approached by PAX with this deal expressed deep concern at what this means to the industry, “I was literally mortified at the long-term ramifications of this deal. I believe that writers’ rights are sacred, and the only long-term income we’ve got is our royalties. If companies are allowed to take those away from us, what are we left with? As much as I need the work, I simply cannot take this kind of deal. It’s just plain wrong.”
Performing rights royalties are paid by broadcasters to performing rights organizations who collect these fees on behalf of their members whose music is used on the broadcast networks. Despite calls from the industry to end the practice, all three performing rights organizations willingly pay writers’ royalties to known non-writers, facilitating the current system that allows what many in the industry describe as abuses to exist and flourish.
Said one film and television composer who asked not to be named for this article, “Only the performing rights organizations can stop this practice, because they operate the royalty payment system and allow this to occur. It is their rules, their system, and their checks that are written every quarter to individuals and companies who are extorting these royalties from composers on a wholesale basis.”
ASCAP and BMI Members Not Welcome
The PAX requirement that U.S. composers for their produced shows not be members of ASCAP or BMI is also highly unusual, blocking work opportunities for composers who are not SESAC affiliates. Normally broadcasters and production companies accept composers from all three performing rights organizations. SESAC has much more restrictive requirements for membership than ASCAP and BMI, and rules of all three organizations state that composers can only be a member of one organization at a time. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC require their members to commit to contracts with the organizations for one or more years at a time.
Industry sources have speculated that PAX wishes to minimize its associations with music licensed by ASCAP and BMI, thus enabling lower license fees from these organizations.
The Industry Responds
The Film Music Network, a leading trade organization for the film and television music industry with over 1,500 members which is owned by the same parent company as Film Music Magazine, issued a statement to its members and the industry today stating, “We are extremely concerned about this dangerous precedent for composers. The erosion of writers royalties by some of the animation companies was the first step, now we have a production company who is also a broadcaster demanding that composers surrender all of their performance royalties for programs broadcast on this network and pay them back to the network as a condition of employment. This strong-arm tactic by broadcasters is unfair to composers, and we urge PAX to reconsider their policy and restore composer royalties immediately.”
The Film Music Network statement also addressed the subject of performing rights societies preventing writers from belonging to more than one society, stating “Now that broadcasters are choosing to exclude composers based on which performing rights organization (PRO) they belong to, it’s only fair that that all three performing rights organizations abolish the rules they’ve created preventing writers from holding membership in more than one PRO. Membership in a PRO should not result in being excluded from work opportunities, but under the current rules, that’s exactly what is happening at the PAX network to ASCAP and BMI composers.”
The Film Music Network has scheduled a Composers Town Hall Meeting in Los Angeles to be held Tuesday, November 12 at The Sportsmen’s Lodge to discuss the PAX issue and other current issues affecting composers and the film and television music community.
Paxson Communications Corporation owns and operates the nation’s largest broadcast television distribution system and PAX TV, family television. PAX TV reaches 87% of U.S. television households via nationwide broadcast television, cable and satellite distribution systems. PAX TV’s fall shows include the original series “Body & Soul,” “Just Cause,” “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye,” “It’s A Miracle,” “Candid Camera” and “Doc,” starring recording artist Billy Ray Cyrus.

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