I know that many writers have been waiting anxiously for a statement from “The People’s Friend” on the situation regarding the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).
Though I realise the apparent lack of information has been frustrating, this has been an extremely complex situation to untangle. And, as I am sure you will appreciate, it would have been inappropriate, unprofessional and irresponsible to comment publicly on the matter until we were in full possession of all the facts.
I can now reveal those facts.
DC Thomson first became aware that ALCS had stopped collecting monies for material published in its magazines on July 12, when several contributors to the “Friend” contacted us to query the situation. They had been told by ALCS that this was a result of action on the part of DC Thomson. The “Friend” team have seen several email messages from ALCS that state:
DC Thomson have moved their mandate from the Publishers Licensing Society to the Newspaper Licensing Agency.
I was extremely puzzled, as I knew that DC Thomson had done no such thing.
DC Thomson values and respects its contributors and always endeavours to treat them fairly and consistently. We would not take any action that would prevent our contributors collecting the royalties that are due to them.
The collection of payments by ALCS on behalf of its members has no impact or bearing whatsoever on DC Thomson. However, wishing to support and aid “Friend” contributors in any way I could, I began an investigation into the facts of what had happened to bring about this change.
Over the past four weeks I have spent many hours on this, as have a number of senior colleagues right across the DC Thomson Group, our legal and communications teams and, not least, the four members of the “Friend” fiction team.
I contacted ALCS seeking clarification. They took a week to send this response:
The publisher DC Thomson have moved their mandate from the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS) to the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) and so articles published by them are unfortunately no longer eligible for payment by ALCS. The mandates were moved in 2019 and ALCS allowed a ‘cool-off’ period where we still honoured existing claims from members but this has now come to an end.
As a publisher of both newspapers and magazines, DC Thomson does indeed have a mandate with the NLA, which covers its newspaper titles but not its magazines. And this mandate is a long-standing one which has been in place for many years. To say it was moved in 2019 is simply not accurate.
I contacted ALCS again, seeking urgent clarification and pointing out the reputational damage that was being done to the good name of the “Friend”. Their response, received today, was as follows:
Please let me firstly apologise for the way in which your queries have been handled by the ALCS team, for any distress caused and for the length of time that it has taken us to respond appropriately and accurately up to this point.
There appears to have been some confusion internally about the status of some titles published by DC Thomson and ALCS’ entitlement to collect for them and this has unfortunately been miscommunicated to several of our, understandably very concerned, members.
This miscommunication by ALCS, which suggests that DC Thomson have changed their processes causing their titles to be ineligible for ALCS payments, is incorrect and the publications that have been specifically mentioned (My Weekly, People’s Friend) are currently included in the ALCS payment scheme, and the functionality on our website will be rectified shortly to reflect this.
We understand that DC Thomson have been extensively contacted over this by many of their contributors so we will also be contacting them directly to explain the situation.
I am extremely sorry that it has taken so long to resolve what now appears to have been an admin error on the part of ALCS.
The majority of “Friend” writers have waited patiently and respectfully for answers during what has been a stressful and worrying time. I’d like to thank them for their understanding and forbearance.
Sadly, a small but vocal minority of writers used the situation to direct verbal aggression, personal insults and bullying towards the “Friend” fiction team on social media and online. It is completely unacceptable that members of my team were targeted with such behaviour, and such rudeness and abuse will not be tolerated.
For 152 years, the “Friend” has prided itself on the values of decency, integrity and kindness that permeate every page in every single issue. These values extend to the way in which we, the editorial team, conduct ourselves at all times. And they are also the values we expect our contributors, as professional writers, to uphold in their public behaviour as well as in the content we purchase from them.