MTV Networks Australia and independent labels association AIR have finally struck a licensing arrangement that will see the broadcaster pay to play indie videos, Billboard.biz can reveal.

Through the new deal, MTV will service the Australian trade body with play reports and pay an agreed amount. And in a first for AIR, the Melbourne-based organization will act as a rights licensing body on behalf of its label members by collecting and distributing the royalties.

The partnership “is an important step forward for both parties,” say MTV and AIR in a prepared statement, one which is meant “to ensure independent artists were fairly remunerated for the broadcast of their content.”

Almost certainly the arrangement spells an end to a holdout which has seen the likes of key Australia indies Shock and Beggars Group-owned Remote Control deny MTV its videos until royalties changed hands.

Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed. “It’s a good deal, and it matches any deal the majors would have,” explains AIR’s GM Nick O’Byrne. “We’re really happy with it.”

“We’re really pleased to reach agreement,” says MTV Networks Australia and New Zealand managing director Dave Sibley, who oversees the media company’s MTV, MTV Classic and TMF music channels. “We do care a great deal about indie repertoire on our channels. It’s a central part of our world on air and online.”

The indies’ royalties dispute has rumbled on for years, but negotiations could start only when AIR got itself in a position to negotiate on behalf of its membership without having to worry about breaking competition laws. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission granted AIR permission in early 2009, and by mid-year the association had lodged eight collective bargaining notifications, listing MTV among its targets.

The new deal, which AIR will communicate to its members on Thursday, is retroactive to Jan. 1.