The Public Lending Right agency, which pays authors 6p per loan when books are borrowed from public libraries, is a notable casualty of the coalition government’s slaughter of the quangos, announced today.
Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, issued a strong hint that as well as abolishing the agency, the actual cash fund used to pay writers is likely to be slashed in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Read Vaizey’s letter to the Guild here (pdf).
The Writers’ Guild understands that the operational side of the PLR scheme will be transferred to Arts Council England, which will also inherit responsibility for film finance from the doomed UK Film Council, and the responsibilities of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in special legislation to be rushed through before the end of this month.
Writers’ organisations reacted immediately to the news by seeking an urgent meeting with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. As a result representatives of the Writers’ Guild, Society of Authors and Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society will have talks with a senior civil servant on 27 October.
Writers’ Guild General Secretary Bernie Corbett said: 'Only six months ago the Digital Economy Act was passed, promising to extend PLR to ebook and audiobook loans. Now we can forget all that, and it seems clear that even the miserable 6p per loan that authors receive is to be cut – having already been frozen for three years.
'We have no idea what is to become of the PLR agency, which is a model service provider and has developed world-leading expertise and spread the gospel of PLR around the globe. They have a small office and staff in Stockton-on-Tees – an unemployment black-spot – and have cut to the bone in previous rounds of efficiency savings.
'I believe this latest move is just a bit of headline-grabbing that will scarcely save a penny of taxpayers’ money. My sympathies are with the incomparable PLR registrar Dr Jim Parker and his staff, who must now be deeply worried about their future.'
Maureen Duffy, the novelist, poet, historian and former Writers’ Guild president, was the leading light of the campaign that led to the establishment of PLR more than 30 years ago. She commented today: 'If I could think of anywhere to go, I would feel like leaving the country.'