Here we go again. The “push me pull you” in Congress about radio royalties continues, although Jeffrey York over at Yahoo! News is less than sanguine about any resolution during the current year.
A resounding voice vote June 27 by the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property in favor of the legislation sent the Performance Rights Act to the full House Judiciary Committee. A vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a similar bill is also possible. But the legislation doesn’t seem poised to get much further in this election year, as Congress is scheduled to adjourn for a summer recess after the first week of August and faces a full agenda after it reconvenes following the Labor Day weekend.
For more commentary lets take a look at a recent piece on Reno, Nevada’s RGJ.com by Adam Sandler (not that Adam Sandler!), VP of the Nevada Broadcasters Association and member of the Free Radio Alliance, as he puts some of the fundamental issues of this conflict into perspective.
One of the huge arguments on the recording industry side has been that the current, long standing system is unfair to their artists. :
The labels claim “it is for the artists,” yet under this proposal, the primary performing artists receive less than the labels’ cut.
Then there is the local angle. Local content and community involvement are extraordinarily important aspects of broadcast radio in American culture. If these new royalties are passed what will the impact be on radio stations and their ability to maintain involvement on that level?
If a performance tax were imposed, local radio stations would need to find millions of dollars in an already strapped economy to try to cover the cost. Stations would be forced to take on more advertisers and devote less time to promoting community events, giving traffic, news and weather reports and playing the songs you love. Smaller stations could be forced to shut their doors, putting people in your community out of work. Larger stations would have to cut back on the local content they proudly provide. Local nonprofit groups would lose millions of dollars in free promotions, making it harder for them to raise money and help the underserved in our communities.
And this does not even touch upon the incredible amount of free advertising and exposure provided to artists through the radio. ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC dues are already paid out by stations in order to compensate songwriters and composers, traditionally the record companies have taken care of artist compensation.
I would be the last person to suggest that just because something has always been done a certain way means it has to continue to be done that way. That is just lousy reasoning. I do, however, believe that if radio stations need to start paying these royalties then we should keep things fair and ensure that the recording industry gets a bill for all of the promotion supplied by broadcast. Backdate that for the past 70 years and total it up. This is, of course, purely my own opinion. I am a sucker for trying to keep things fair.
Regular readers know that I am a huge supporter of radio involvement in the community. Mr. Sandler is obviously cut from similar cloth as he shows with this pithy but accurate query:
Ask yourself: When was the last time a record label did something to help our community? My guess is you drew a blank. Yet, I bet you can think of many times when your local radio station supported local charities or raised awareness of a local issue by discussing it on-air. Indeed, radio has a direct impact in every American community from providing critical emergency and disaster information to helping you decide whether to take U.S. 395 or Interstate 80.
You know, he was right. I drew a complete blank.