Local Radio Freedom Act vs. Performance Rights Act

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As the RIAA continues to push for the Performance Rights Act (PRA) as a way to bolster their failing business model, another act has been gaining steam in Congress: The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA).

As Reg Wydevan, a partner at Appleton-based law firm of McCarty Law LLP, notes in his column for the Appleton Post-Crescent, we’ve danced this dance before:

This is not the first time a performance tax has been considered. In both 1971 and 1976, a performance tax bill was introduced in Congress and refused, citing the important promotional value of free radio airplay. In 1995, a similar measure was shot down to avoid jeopardizing what Congress called “the mutually beneficial economic relationship between the recording and traditional broadcasting industries.”

So, once more we see this dead horse beaten by a music industry that is running scared due to the impact of file sharing and the transition of music purchasing on the Internet. The arguments have about as much weight now as they did back in ’71, especially when you consider that less than half of the money collected “for the artists” is designated to go to said artists.

As Radio Business Report tells us, more and more opposition is becoming evident at the Congressional level as well as within the ranks of artists:

The total number of US Representatives who are now signed onto the Local Radio Freedom Act, and who stand in opposition to the Performance Rights Act, has reached 256 with the addition of a quartet of Democrats. Meanwhile, Country group Lady Antebellum has joined the chorus of musicians who recognize the value of radio airplay.

The four latest co-sponsors are Reps. Travis Childers (D-MI), Mike McMahon (D-NY), Bill Owens (D-NY), and Mark Schauer (D-MI). While these four are all Democrats, it is well worth noting that the support for the LRFA is truly bi-partisan, composed Congress members from both sides of the aisle. While this is wonderful news, it needs to be noted that the LRFA is a non-binding resolution. This means that even with the majority support it has attained, it does not actually block the PRA.

That said, I’ve got to support the view espoused by Radio Business Report in an article about the National Black Church Initiative’s opposition to the PRA:

We don’t know if a floor vote is the best tactic or not, but we do know that the popularity of PRA in the House begins and seemingly ends in the Judiciary Committee. 256 House members have signed on to the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes PRA. That’s 38 more votes than necessary to stop the bill. And it’s not a Democrat v. Republican thing – LRFA has strong support within both parties.

So while things look pretty positive, we all still need to be vigilant. Contact your Representatives and encourage your friends to do the same. Encourage those in power to support the Local Radio Freedom Act and take a stand against the Performance Rights Act. It’s not a matter of supporting “corporate radio” as the PRA’s backers frame it, but rather of supporting radio in general.

The stations most in danger from this misguided legislation are the minority-owned and collegiate stations, the independents and small chains of stations.  Yes, it will hurt the big conglomerates as well, but they will not face the danger of extinction that stations with lesser resources will. Get involved and help save radio!

Image: mkeefe / CC BY 2.0

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