BBC Prior Approval process

BBC Licences 

We have recently agreed new joint (MCPS and PRS) licences with the BBC, covering all of its public service television and radio channels in the UK (e.g. BBC1, BBC2, Radio 3, BBC 6 Music), its on-demand services such as iPlayer and BBC Sounds, and the BBC World Service.  

In addition, we have agreed new MCPS licences with BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios) covering DVD/Blu-Ray releases and international sales of TV programmes. 

These licences, which commenced on 1 Jan 2019, replace existing licences which have been in place for a number of years. They include new terms which, if you’re an MCPS member, give you the opportunity for more control over how your music is used. This means that the BBC or BBC Studios may be in contact with you to obtain clearance (“prior approval”) to use your music in certain circumstances as follows:

Single Artist/Composer Programmes

Where a TV programme relates to a single composer or author (or composer and/or author team), the BBC will need to obtain prior approval to use commercial works written or composed by the composer, author or team in question. The exception to this is where the BBC makes the relevant programme in collaboration with the composer, author or team in question (or their estate, as the case may be).

Permitted Promotions (also known as “Trailers”)

A permitted promotion is content which, over a limited period (of no more than two months), previews a specific programme or series, live events, or a season of programmes. Where a commercial work is flagged on our database as requiring prior approval it may not be used in a permitted promotion unless the relevant MCPS member has approved the use of the work.

Generic Radio Promotions

A generic radio promotion is content which promotes one or more of the BBC’s public service radio services.  The BBC is licensed to use commercial music (provided they obtain prior approval from the relevant MCPS member) in up to six generic radio promotions in each year of its licence.

TV Programmes sold into North America

Where programmes are sold by the BBC’s commercial arm (BBC Studios) to third parties in the USA and Canada, commercial musical works that are flagged on our database as needing prior approval may not be included in those programmes unless the relevant MCPS member has approved the use of the commercial musical work, or the musical work is used ‘in-context’ (i.e. clips from feature films, record company or artist management approved promotional material, music used in the context of an interview with an artist etc.).

North American DVD/Blu-ray and Download To Own (DTO)

BBC Worldwide (now BBC Studios) has had MCPS licences covering DVD sales and DTO in North America for the last ten years. These licences had prior approval provisions for any uses of North American originating commercial music.

Under the new licences, the rights to use MCPS commercial musical works are no longer included for any new programmes (i.e. those made on or after 1 January 2019) sold by the BBC or BBC Studios. If the BBC wants to use commercial music in these programmes, it will need to clear these rights directly with publishers.

Existing conditions of licence

In addition to the new terms set out above, certain conditions from the last BBC licence will continue to apply, so the BBC may also be in touch to request your permission to use your music in the following contexts:  


The BBC will need prior approval if it wants to use an arrangement or adaptation of any PRS or MCPS repertoire.

Parody or Burlesque

The use of PRS or MCPS repertoire in the form of a parody or burlesque continues to be excluded, except where the BBC obtains the prior approval of the relevant copyright owner.

Dramatico-Musical Works

A dramatico-musical work is a Ballet, opera, operetta, musical, musical play or show, revue or pantomime for which the music has been specifically written.   

If you own the copyright in a dramatico-musical work, you may nominate PRS to administer the performing right in excerpts which are broadcast within a programme, as long as all the excerpts do not exceed 20 minutes.

If you own the copyright in a ballet, you may nominate PRS to administer the performing right in an excerpt of the ballet which is included in a programme, as long as the total duration of all the footage does not exceed 20 minutes.

Endorsements or Promotions

The use of commercial music in any manner which is likely to cause the public to believe that the musical work is being used to endorse or promote any product or service is excluded, unless the BBC obtains the prior approval of the copyright owner.

Signature Music

Prior approval is needed for ‘signature music’ (i.e. the main title sequence, or the end credits of a TV programme series or a strand of TV programmes) where the same commercial work is used as the signature music in three or more episodes in a programme series or strand of programming.

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