Posts Tagged ‘H.R. 848’

Performance Rights Act: Civil Rights Leaders Weigh In

May 19, 2010

When people think of civil rights issues, they tend to think of the obvious things: racial profiling, job discrimination, etc. In real life, things are rarely quite so neat. This is a truth that civil rights proponents are well aware of. Lately, many of the higher profile names in this arena have begun to cast their eyes upon the Performance Rights Act (PRA). Politic365 recently did a special report about this, leading off with this quote:

[…] as Rev. Al Sharpton told Politic365, “often it is the quiet bills, the obscure bills, the so-called “specialized” bills, the bills no one seems to know much about, that can hurt Black folks the most if we’re not paying attention.”  A textbook example, according to Rev. Sharpton and other civil rights advocates interviewed byPolitic365, is the “Performance Royalty” legislation that many advocates believe would throw Black radio into a deep tailspin.

Anyone familiar with the ways of Washington is aware of the way that bills are often attached to higher priority legislation in order to pass. It is a daily occurrence on Capitol Hill. In addition, the impact of this legislation on minority-owned radio has long been a bone of contention, inspiring truly bipartisan efforts on both sides of the issue.

But now the heavy hitters from the civil rights scene are weighing in on the legislation and their thoughts on the PRA are not exactly complimentary. Here is another example drawn from the same report:

MMTC [Minority Media and Telecommunications Council] warns that “misinformation is circulating in the civil rights community suggesting that the legislation will not harm minority radio.  In fact, black and Spanish radio would be hit the hardest by this legislation because these stations face the greatest challenges” – including weaker signals, advertising discrimination, and the FCC’s failure to enforce its equal employment opportunity rules.  MMTC reports that it has conservatively estimated that the legislation would throw at least a third of minority owned stations over the cliff into bankruptcy.  The National Association of Media Brokers (NAMB) agrees, adding that “the imposition of a performance royalty on free, over-the-air broadcast stations will be crippling to the broadcast industry in general, and be particularly devastating to minority broadcasters and their audiences, as well as to other new entrants to the industry.”

This is particularly distressing if you take into account the research findings referenced in the Politics365 special report. According to that report, the value of  radio airplay directly translates to approximately $2 billion in annual music sales, and that number excludes radio’s promotional impact on concert and merchandise based income.

Opponents of the Performance Rights Act include civil rights luminaries such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, Dick Gregory, and Tom Joyner. In addition, fifteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also expressed their concerns, including Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, Al Green, John Lewis, Charlie Rangel, and Bobby Rush. That is one impressive roll call if you ask me.

In the end, though, it was Rev. Sharpton who posed the vital question of the day:

“Why in the world would the Democrats at the Commerce Department do this to Black radio – and to radio period?  It doesn’t make sense from a political, social or economic perspective.  If it passes, this bill would have a devastating effect on Black communities.”

What do you think?

Image: marriageequalityCC BY 2.0


Performance Rights Act Gets Support From White House

April 5, 2010

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.

Image: stevegarfieldCC BY 2.0

Keeping Radio Free: The Online Movement

June 23, 2009


“The recording industry is a dirty business – always has been, probably always will be. I don’t think you could find a recording artist who has made more than two albums that would say anything good about his or her record company.”
Don Henley, The Eagles

“That was the big thing when I was growing up, singing on the radio. The extent of my dream was to sing on the radio station in Memphis. Even when I got out of the Air Force in 1954, I came right back to Memphis and started knocking on doors at the radio station.
– Johnny Cash

Approximately 124,00 Americans are employed in the radio industry. Innumerable artists have had their careers launched on the airwaves. Since the early 1900s, radio has been a mainstay for musicians, a pulpit that has allowed them to reach the ears 0f people around the world. It has almost universally been the first major step towards fame and fortune for those performers able to get the airplay.

“It was amazing to me that, all of a sudden, I was hearing my music on the radio and coming out of cars.
– Lenny Kravitz

The auditory experience speaks to people on a level vastly different from the one that other media touch upon. In the fertile ground of the human imagination it can take root providing entertainment, inspiration, and information all wrapped up in an aural package.

“TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains.
– Peggy Noonan

“I started playing ukulele first for 2 years from age 9 to 11 and got my first guitar and got inspired by blues I heard on the radio that turned me on and I started learning myself.
– Johnny Winter

Now we are seeing radio under economic fire on Capitol Hill as the Performance Rights Act (S. 379 & H.R. 848) lumbers its way through the legislative process. In response, there have been many efforts made to combat this proposed act due to the deleterious effect it would have on smaller stations and minority broadcasters, among other reasons. Today, I’d like to point out two online resources for information and activism on behalf of the radio industry.

First there is, which has a petition online as well as search tools for getting the contact info of your Senator and Representative. With 231 members of the House publicly opposed to the legislation, this is a vitally important tool. All of us — DJs, listeners, programmers, anyone who loves radio — need to step up and let our leaders know that we support radio.

There is also the Free Radio Alliance which is really leveraging the social media in their efforts as well as providing numerous resources, information and a nicely developed Action Center. Go join up; I just did! You can also check them out on  on Facebook, , Twitter, and Linked In.

Then there is the site put up by the NAB:  No Performance Tax Dot Org. Not only another great source of news and resources, but also host to a wide variety of broadcaster-oriented tools and info including downloadable radio spots and a Performance Tax Public File Form to help stations remain compliant while engaging in advocacy in this issue.

Recent months have truly shown the power of the online campaign. Just take a look at the analyses of the recent presidential election for one of the best examples. Social media and the Internet offer an unprecedented avenue for people when organizing around issues such as this one. Get out there and make your voices heard, be it on blogs like this one, in Facebook groups, or any other platform. It can work!

I’d like to close today with two quotes from the Distinguished Opposition at the Recording Industry of America.

“If a song’s not on the radio, it’ll never sell.”
– Mark Wright, Senior Vice President, MCA Records

“It is clearly the number one way that we’re getting our music exposed. Nothing else affects retail sales the way terrestrial radio does.”
– Tom Biery, Senior Vice President for Promotion, Warner Bros. Records

Photo courtesy of Antigne78, used under its Creative Commons license