The owner of a riding school thought she was on the receiving end of a practical joke when she was told she needed a licence to play the radio at her stables because it counted as “a performance”.

Rosemary Greenway, of Malthouse Equestrian Centre at Bushton in Wiltshire, was informed in a phone call from the Performing Rights Society last month that any business that employs more than two people requires such a licence, at the cost of £100 per year.

Mrs Greenway, 62, was told that although she had been playing the radio at her stables for 22 years, the society would only backdate the payment to include the past year.

She said: “I replied that this was absolutely ridiculous and I would throw away the radio instead, so the man just confirmed the action I would take and bid me goodbye.”

But Mrs Greenway has kept her radio, only playing it on Sundays when she is there alone with her horses, so not to break the law.

“I actually use my radio for the benefit of the horses, as Classic FM helps them relax,” she said. “The staff are not bothered whether they have the radio on or not — in fact, they don’t particularly like my music and turn it off when I’m not around.

“This does seem a bit harsh and given that radio stations already have to pay for the rights to play music, it seems like double charging to me.”

The Performing Rights Society confirmed that small businesses have had to pay the charge since 2007 and that it consults a register of companies to find out who has to pay.

Chris Doran of the British Horse Society said many people in the riding community had not been aware of the change in the law and had contacted the organisation wondering if they were being “scammed”.

The society has since tried to make members aware through its Owners Outlook publication.

Mrs Greenway said: “It’s the way it’s being done that is putting everyone’s back up. They seem to be very forceful on the phone.

“And it does seem to be a lot of money for people to pay to listen to the radio while they are mucking out.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (26 March, ’09)