At first I had hopes because of the date, April 1, that this was a prank. Unfortunately, in the clear light of the following day it is indeed legitimate. What I’m referring to is the letter from the Commerce Department’s general counsel expressing White House support for the Performance Rights Act (PRA). Not cheerful news for stations, although the battle is not lost yet.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), our sponsors, responded in short order with this statement made by EVP Dennis Wharton (text from AllRadioNews):
“NAB was aware this letter was coming, which is a position taken previously by the Bush Commerce Department. We’re disappointed the Commerce Department would embrace legislation that would kill jobs in the U.S. and send hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign record labels that have historically exploited artists whose careers were nurtured by American radio stations. The good news is that 260 members of the House of Representatives and 27 U.S. Senators are standing with hometown radio stations and against the RIAA.”
While this represents a setback, it does not mean our cause is lost. The news that those in favor represent a rare bipartisan coalition in Congress is balanced out by the fact that those against are also a completely bipartisan group. This issue is not a simple in which party loyalties factor, oddly enough.
I really think the best argument against this legislation is a simple look at the history of radio payola, an opinion shared by Nate Anderson at Ars Technica:
[…] the NAB (correctly) points out that it has been the broadcasters who repeatedly engaged in “payola” over the years; not only has radio paid nothing to the recording industry, but the industry has gone to the trouble of paying extra to radio, just for the privilege of promoting particular songs.
Just for the record, I do agree that all broadcasters should be paying the same royalties regardless of delivery mechanism. In my opinion, that means webcasters and satellite should be paying royalties structured like radio enjoys now rather than increasing radio’s burden to match theirs.