Do golf clubs need a motion picture licence?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 17, 2018 07:59

This guidance from the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA) explores the licences that golf clubs need if they broadcast anything other than sport, music or news from their clubhouse televisions.

A large number of our member clubs have recently received a letter from the Motion Picture Licensing Company (MPLC) to say that they may require a licence to show broadcast television programmes and films in public areas, as a result of a recent change in the law.

We have conducted research and spoken with various authorities, including the MPLC in order to clarify the position on behalf of our members.

Who are MPLC?

MPLC is a legitimate organisation which represents the interests of a large number of TV and film producers and distributors around the world.

It has no statutory status but it does provide the motion picture licences for the producers and distributors that it represents in order to prevent unauthorised use of their copyright. In a similar way to PRS / PPL not being able to guarantee coverage with their licence to absolutely everyone, MPLC assures us that it represents the majority of TV and film producers and distributors on an exclusive basis.

Change in the law

A change to section 72 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) was that it brought the showing of broadcast television programmes and films in public places within the scope of potential motion picture licensing. It is worth noting that public places includes staff only areas.

Where a motion picture licence is required for the broadcast of television programmes and films in public places, it is in addition to existing licences required through PRS, PPL, TV licensing and any Sky or other commercial subscriptions.

Does my golf club need a motion picture licence?

It depends … on what is being shown.

It makes no difference whether the ‘showing’ is through terrestrial, satellite (including commercial Sky customers), free to air (including Freeview), internet or cable. The key question for the applicability of a motion picture licence is what is being shown.

If you make a specific charge for the screening of a TV show or film, then you will definitely need a motion picture licence. You may well need to look into other licences for such showings, such as from the local authority. If there is no specific charge made by the club for the showing, for example that the TV is in the bar of a members’ golf club where fees are paid for golf membership (and TV is ancillary to the main purpose of membership), then there may still be a requirement for a licence BUT see below for exceptions.

The motion picture licence applies to films and television programmes so if you show films or TV programmes in the communal areas of your club (bar, restaurants, lounge areas and so on) a licence is required.

There is no requirement for a motion picture licence if the television in your communal areas only shows sport (for example Sky or BT Sport), rolling news (such as BBC News Channel, Sky News) or dedicated music channels.

A golf club could also avoid the need for a motion picture licence if it switched on and off certain channels for specific broadcasts. For example, if a World Cup football match was on BBC1 at 7pm and finished at 9pm, the club would not need a motion picture licence if it switched on and off at exactly those times – so it was restricted to showing sport and no other TV shows or films.

In order to prevent liability for the licence fee and from prosecution, the club must have a mechanism in place to ensure that it is only showing sport, news or dedicated music channels. If a Sky decoder can be locked so that it only shows sports, news and music only channels, that would be a good, robust mechanism.

No films or TV programmes should be inadvertently shown to the public. If watching a live broadcast of football as in the example above, when the broadcast ends there should be no way that a movie or TV programme is shown after the football. A procedure must be in place to ensure that the TV is switched off after the live sport content has ended. The idea of leaving the TV controls out on the tables for members to switch around would have to end; keeping the controls under the strict control of the manager with a clear understanding of the licensing requirements may assist in discharging the obligation to have a robust mechanism in place.


In summary, those clubs that have received the letter from MPLC would not need to obtain the motion picture licence provided that they do not charge separately and specifically for the broadcast AND provided that they can demonstrate that they show nothing other than sports, news and music channels, as outlined above.



Chief Executive Alistair Smith leads the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA) in providing guidance and support on all legal matters impacting golf clubs. 

The National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA)

The Threshing Barn, Homme Castle Barns,

Shelsley Walsh, Worcestershire, WR6 6RR

Tel: 01886 812943



Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 17, 2018 07:59
Write a comment


  1. ripvan126 June 2, 17:28

    The information relating to MPLC leaves me with this question. Is/are mplc, prs and/or ppl licenses required for showing anything other than news, sport and music in a MEMBERS ONLY bar or area within the clubhouse?
    Many thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Go September 11, 08:50

    We at our Golf Club have received this email. We have a TV and licence, no sky TV , rarely on unless Golf occasionally. TV used for Race Night fund raiser once a year . DVD s come with package. Should we have an MPLC for this or covered by purchase of Package? We do not charge entry for the night.

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Join Our Mailing List

Read the latest issues

Advertise With Us

For editorial enquiries in the magazine or online, contact:

For advertising enquiries in the magazine or online, contact: