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UK Government gets behind on air/on sale

UK Government gets behind on air/on sale

Creative Industries minister Ed Vaizey says he welcomes the decision by Sony and Universal to spearhead the move to same day radio and retail release dates because it answers consumer demand in the digital age and also discourages piracy.

"The internet has revolutionised the way we consume music and industry must respond to the change in demand," says Vaizey, who in a major departmental shakeup today now reports solely to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is taking on much of Business Secretary Vince Cable's portfolio including the implementation of the Digital Economy Act.

Vaizey adds, "The more legal sources of online content meet the expectations of consumers in the digital age, the less people will be tempted to turn to unlawful sources."

Vaizey's comments come as sources have suggested the on air/on sale move could trigger competition concerns, but a Department of Business Innovation and Skills spokesman says the pair of majors only informed Vaizey about the on air/on sale move as a matter of "courtesy" and he is unaware of it causing any problems at BIS or Ofcom.

With Universal, Sony and most of the indies now following the on air/on sale route, executives believe it is only a matter of time before Warner and EMI are persuaded of the benefits - both to their customers and for the sake of encouraging new legal services. In fact, several senior execs suggest Warner and EMI will get on board with on air/on sale by the autumn by the latest. It is understood executives from the majors have held informal talks about the issue and EMI could even throw away its old marketing rules sooner.

The major has already experimented with same date radio and retail, most notably with the Gorillaz hit Stylo, Morning Parade's Under The Stars and Coldplay's Christmas Lights, but one source says he believes there is an internal debate taking place within EMI about on air/on sale, with senior management split on the idea about making it a permanent policy across the board with other key projects allowed to build from radio.

EMI Music UK and Ireland CEO Andria Vidler says, "We have a flexible approach to this issue. Together with our artists and their management we look at each release to determine the timing of radio and retail dates based on what's best for the artist with that particular release."

Similarly, Warner is believed to favor what a more nuanced approach to release date - treating every case on its own merits.

Vaizey's comments come as the Government makes a huge portfolio shift to beef up the DCMS with much of the policy issues once under Business Secretary Vince Cable's domain. As part of the move all media, broadcasting, digital and telecoms work, which includes broadband policy, the DEA and Digital Radio Action Plan, will now be handled by Hunt. Vaizey, who previously split his role between BIS and DCMS, will now report to Hunt.

A music executive calls the shift, which follow Cable's politically ill-judged attack on Sky in a secretly recorded interview, a major "portfolio grab" by Hunt and his department. "DCMS was always the junior partner, but this gives it a bit more power," he says.

A DCMS spokeswoman concedes the move is "significant" for her department and says she expects a number of staff to begin moving from BIS to the DCMS offices near Trafalgar Square shortly.

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