Proms last night is ours, says the BBC

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Prom wars have broken out between the BBC and classical music promoters using the title Last Night Of The Proms.

The BBC claims the world famous phrase for the end of their season of promenade concerts belongs to the corporation. And one leading classical music promoter has been warned by BBC lawyers that he cannot use the words for one of his concerts.

The word "proms" is used by a number of orchestras in the UK. Only last week the Halle orchestra in Manchester staged its own Last Night Of The Proms. At least seven other Last Night Of The Proms concerts are being staged by orchestras this summer.

But now the BBC is saying it should have sole use of the title for classical music concerts.

However, the promoter Raymond Gubbay, who is presenting two Last Nights of the Proms to round off his lakeside concert seasons at Crystal Palace in London (ironically, with the BBC Concert Orchestra) and at Penshurst Place in Kent, yesterday fired off an indignant letter to the BBC legal department saying he had no intention of changing his mind.

In a letter to BBC lawyer Tristram Kennedy Harper, Mr Gubbay says: "I refer to ... your use of the phrase `ripping off the BBC' in relation to our use of programme titles and material for one of our open-air summer concerts...

"I find it entirely unacceptable that an employee of the BBC should wish to comment on our activities with such an ill-judged and insulting comment. We promote over 200 performances per year of concerts, opera and ballet, involving dozens of orchestras and hundreds of artists of all kinds, without any recourse to public subsidy or money from licence-payers. To try to paint us as you did as some kind of cowboy outfit is as inaccurate as it is insulting."

The BBC responded with a statement from its Intellectual Property Department saying: "The BBC's legal department did write to Raymond Gubbay objecting to the promotion of a concert at Penshurst Place under the title Last Night Of The Proms. The BBC has recently been concerned that various concert organisers have been using the term `Proms' to promote their concerts in such a way that might suggest a connection with the BBC Proms - in one case using photographs of a BBC Last Night Of The Proms in their publicity material.

"The BBC has been broadcasting and has been solely responsible for the organisation of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, now simply known as The Proms, since 1927. The Proms are perhaps the most famous concert festival in the world and generate an incalculable reputation and goodwill for the BBC. A considerable portion of the BBC's income from licence-payers goes towards the annual Proms festival. The BBC takes steps to protect its rights in its trade marks and programme titles and it would be surprising if it did not also seek to protect its reputation in The Proms.

"While the term `prom' can of course be used descriptively, the BBC does think it reasonable to object when it believes that a connection with the BBC is being suggested and that the public might be misled."

Mr Gubbay said last night: "I utterly refuse to recognise any BBC ownership of the word proms or the title Last Night Of The Proms. Promenade concerts are staged by promoters all over the country. Are they seriously telling me that people sitting in the middle of a field in Kent might get confused into thinking they are in the Royal Albert Hall? I now fully intend to run a whole concert series entitled Last Night Of The Proms this winter."