Posts Tagged ‘National Association of Broadcasters’

Roundup: The Performance Rights Act

June 16, 2010

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) has been a frequent topic here on the Radio 2020 blog ever since its inception, and with good reason. The legislation as it stands could have massive negative repercussions for the radio industry at all levels. Among other things, the new royalty structure will almost certainly result in the labels revisiting their contracts with artists if it passes — not something many have considered. This is only one of many ramifications that will rear their ugly heads if the PRA gets passed.

Let’s take a quick trip in a time machine and revisit my prior postings on the subject. For the benefit of our readers, here is a nice array of data on the subject. These posts range from October 2009 to the present and are presented oldest to newest in this list.

The Performance Rights Act is a very serious issue and it could still go one way or the other, so please educate yourself on the subject. Make an informed decision and let your Representative know your views!

Image: D. Reichardt / CC 2.0


Broadcasting With One Voice: CBS and Fox Rejoin The NAB

May 11, 2010

Capitol Hill has been a battleground for broadcasters recently. Between the radio industry’s fight against the Performance Rights Act (PRA) and TV broadcasters facing off against cable companies over retransmission fees, it’s certainly been far from dull.

One of the best ways to respond to adversity is with one voice. Earlier this week, broadcasters opted to speak with a more unified voice than they have in years. The Washington Post’s Celia Kang reports:

CBS and Fox Broadcasting resumed their membership in NAB [the National Association of Broadcasters], the trade group said late Monday. The move comes in the wake of an FCC proposal to shift some spectrum held by broadcasters over to mobile broadband providers. The agency has promised to share the proceeds of those airwaves’ auction with the broadcasters, but the NAB has been skeptical of the plan and says its members need the spectrum for future business plans, such as mobile TV.

“The interests of our industry, our company and our viewers are best served by speaking with one voice on Capitol Hill, at the FCC and in the courts,” said Jack Abernethy, chief executive of Fox Television.

This is a landmark. All four of the major broadcasters– ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX — had left NAB’s ranks over the past decade or so because of a policy dispute over how many TV stations a broadcast network could own. ABC returned to the fold in 2005 and NBC followed suit in 2007. With the return of CBS and Fox, we see a return to unity of voice.

As we muster support for The Local Radio Freedom Act in the halls of government, it is good to know that we are rallying our strength.

Image: NAB logo / Fair Use: Reporting
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Of Pigs and Pizza: RIAA Resorts to College Pranks

March 12, 2010

Time to check in on the debate surrounding the Performance Rights Act (PRA) once more. The absurdist presence of an 18-foot-long inflatable pig pretty much demands it for amusement value alone.

Last Wednesday, a group of five protesters inflated the aforementioned pig in front of the Dupont Circle offices of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). (Note: NAB sponsors the Radio2020 blog.) According to Kim Hart at The Hill,  the protest was organized by Radio Accountability Project, whose members include the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SoundExchange, and the American Federation of Musicians. I must say, they did not do a very good job of organizing and motivating their supporters. Five people? I’ve been at more crowded board games.

So the big piggy was supposed to satirize the “piggyness” of radio. Subtle. As was their current advertising campaign which accuses radio of wanting a free handout, which is highly amusing when the industry stance has been simply one of preserving the established relationships.

Having watched a number of up-and-coming bands suffer massive travails at the hands of various labels, I was highly amused by the response my colleagues at the NAB had to the pig:

Broadcasters fought back today with their own gimmick– bringing out sausage pizza to the protesters.

“We’re suggesting they provide this food to the scores of exploited musicians who have had to sue their record label to recoup allegedly unpaid album royalties,” said NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton.

I think the family of Jimi Hendrix would be a good place to start. Honestly, if you look outside the confines of the current debate, you will find a metric ton of stories out there about artists being taken advantage of by labels. You will also find little but glowing words for radio and how it has helped so many artists succeed. Simply on the basis of past record, there is little reason to trust the labels, especially as they are currently motivated by the fact that their business model is in the grip of  protracted deterioration that started with Napster.

While radio has been expanding onto Internet and mobile platforms (where it does pay additional fees), the recording industry has been suing college kids for hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to preserve an outmoded way of doing business.

Image: saechang/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Additional Royalties: Still Unjustified

March 5, 2010

Okay, folks. Brace yourselves, as today I will be opinionated. There is a lot flying around the media about the Performance Rights Act (PRA), or as our sponsors at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) call it, the Performance Tax.  One of the most common assertions of those who support it is that the money collected goes to the artists. That’s not quite so accurate, as it turns out.

A lot of big names in music have stepped up to support the PRA, most recently Dionne Warwick, who personally lobbied Congress in support of the legislation. Big names, indeed. Funny, isn’t it, how no one of less than millionaire standing seems to support this. Why is that?

Could it be because there is no fonder ambition for most up-and-comers than to get some airplay? I think so. That promotion is vital, and is marked by increasing stages of success: local airplay, regional airplay, and national airplay. It has always been, and continues to be, the chief means of discovering new music.

Now, I’m sure there are those among you shaking your heads and thinking that I am “corporate shill” as you read this. I beg to differ. I spent several years in New Orleans working as a promoter of grassroots-level art and music. I’ve had the pleasure of working with bands ranging in genre from bluegrass to death metal. Most of my work in radio has been at either college or community stations. I’m about as far from a “corporate shill” as you can get.

What I do have is perspective gained from watching band after band shooting for airplay. Too many of the high-profile supporters of the PRA desire performance royalties. To unsigned bands, it creates a barrier. As a station manager responsible for the bottom line, would you be as willing to be adventurous in your choice of playlist if you had additional fees to deal with? Probably not, especially during economic times like these. As a result, it becomes harder and harder to break new music. Sounds like it really helps the artists, doesn’t it?

I agree wholeheartedly with Corey Dietz in his recent column on’s Radio section:

Most struggling bands would kill to receive substantial radio airplay which solidifies the standing of a band or artist on a national scale. In this respect, the trade between radio airplay and not having to pay the performer a royalty is more than justified. That’s just my opinion – you can leave yours below.

Stop The Radio Tax!

February 17, 2010

The Performance Rights Act (PRA) is something I’ve watchdogged ever since it was introduced on Capitol Hill. This legislation, which would add a new financial onus to the equation for radio broadcasters, will do great detriment to the radio industry if passed.

The misconception I run across often is that this is only a worry for large commercial radio groups. Nothing could be further from the truth. Small radio groups, college radio, and minority-owned radio all stand to suffer if it goes through. The effects of this legislation would cascade downwards through the industry, and at the same time would channel most of the new funds collected into the pockets of the music industry, not the artists it purports to serve.

As the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) operated website puts it:

If you’re one of the 235 million people who listen to radio each week, a tax could reduce the variety of music radio stations play, and all but cut the possibility of new artists breaking onto the scene. The tax could particularly affect smaller, minority-owned stations, some of which may have to switch to a talk-only format or shut down entirely.

It also affects your community. Radio stations are major contributors to public service – generating $6 billion in public service annually, providing vital news and community information and free airtime to help local charities. If a tax were imposed, stations’ critical community service efforts could be reduced.

And, worst of all, if you’re one of the 106,000 Americans employed by local radio, your job could be in jeopardy. In these troubling economic times, the last thing local radio needs is to be hit with a tax that some analysts estimate could be $2-7 billion annually.

Our sponsors at the NAB have placed a large amount of info at your disposal on this website, including information and resources for broadcasters, stations, and people who are concerned about the deleterious effects of this effort should it pass.

Get involved! Join in on our online efforts:

  • No Performance Tax dot Org – The main website which has numerous resources ranging from video of Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo’s video about how this legislation will adversely affect Spanish language radio to radio and TV spots that can be downloaded and implemented immediately.
  • Facebook – Join the discussion and find out what you can do to combat this legislation on the fastest growing social network online.
  • Twitter– Follow No Performance Tax on Twitter (@StopRadioTax) for updates on the legislation and links to pertinent info on the subject. For example: “See why the Media Institute says a performance tax would be a ‘debacle,’ and check out our take.

I’ve worked in music off and on for over a decade. In my view, the downsides of this passing far outweigh the positives. Most of the money collected would immediately end up in the coffers of the music industry, doing little good for the musicians at large. It would also affect distinct barriers to new music getting airplay because from a business standpoint, it’s a safer bet to pay royalties on a known draw as opposed to an unknown.

Do a little Googling. Rarely will you find articles about the radio industry being at odds with the artists. The record labels, on the other hand, are infamous for their behavior in regards to the artists. Just ask the family of Jimi Hendrix.

Take a look at my body of work discussing the Performance Rights Act here on the Radio 2020 Blog for more info.

Image: via the NAB (Our Sponsors)

Additional Note: I will be on my yearly vacation for the next week celebrating Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl victory of the New Orleans Saints. I’ve got some articles set up to publish while I am away so there will be no break in the blogging, I just won’t have the opportunity to respond to comments or emails until the 18th. Thanks for tuning in!

Reps. Conaway and Green: Champions of Radio

November 6, 2009

conawayThere is a discussion of the Performance Rights Act (PRA) scheduled for November 17 on Capitol Hill.  Among the invited participants are National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President/CEO Gordon Smith and Joint Board Chair/Commonwealth Broadcasting President/CEO Steve Newberry, as well as representatives of label-backed pro-royalties group musicFIRST.

Of course, there are two members of Congress not invited who would like to attend and add their own views to the mix: Reps. Mike Conaway (R-TX) (pictured) and Gene Green (D-TX). The two radio supporters  have penned a missive to  House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) asking to participate in the dialogue.

Here is an excerpt from that letter I found on RadioInk:

Green and Conaway write, “We are the lead sponsors of H. Con. Res. 49, the ‘Local Radio Freedom Act,’ a resolution supported by more than 250 of our House colleagues that opposes any new financial burdens on local radio broadcasters. We have serious concerns that legislation imposing a new royalty on local radio stations, particularly in this economic climate, will be tremendously harmful to radio stations and their employees, local communities that rely on radio, and recipients, such as charities and nonprofits, that receive free airtime for their causes.”

They go on to cite the inclusion of Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), a proponent of the new royalties, and other House members not currently on the judicial committee as a precedent for their inclusion. I’m sure that the recent Neilsen studies, showing that radio has a greater audience than the Internet, will add some fuel to the fire on both sides. The musicFIRST people will see an even bigger pot of gold to shoot for at the end of their legislative rainbow, while our side has more solid proof of the reach and value of airplay.

Just take a look at Business Insider‘s Chart of the Day for a great visual representation of the numbers from the study. For more depth, there is also an interview on Media Life with Lorraine Hadfield, managing director of global radio measurement at The Nielsen Company, about “why radio remains ubiquitous, why listening is higher at work than at home, and why not everyone has an iPod.”

With newly verified data showing radio to reach 77%  of adult listeners (64% for the Internet), we have a clear illustration of how pervasive radio is. Our medium continues to hold the crown as the number one discovery mechanism for music, something the labels are well aware of.

Image: Mike Conaway / Public Domain: Govt.

Royalties in Mind: C-Span The Communicators

October 7, 2009

cspanExcitement is not the word that usually comes to mind when people think about C-Span. This weekend, however, there was excitement to be had, at least if you have an interest in radio. Steve Newberry, Joint Board Chair for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and Commonwealth Broadcasting President/CEO, appeared on The Communicators and his topic was the Performance Rights Act.

Mr. Newberry expressed an opinion that I share, that the recording industry is completely invested in a failing business model and are attempting to stop the financial hemorrhage by coming to broadcasters with their hands outstretched. If that were not the case, then why is it that 50% of the royalties collected are supposed to go into studio coffers as  opposed to being distributed to the artists?

He also addressed one aspect of the ongoing argument that is left by the wayside way to often: our responsibility to the next generation of performers. Radio Ink delivers the direct quote:

“But if we do see [performance royalties] happen, and radio stations are forced to pay, I think that one of the unintended consequences could very well be that it becomes a pure business transaction, and radio stations are forced to do one of two things: expect compensation or a pure business investment, a return on my investment. If I am paying … you’d better believe that I am going to be much less willing to take a risk on new artists or unknown artists, and I am going to play those that have the most consistent performance recognition. And you could see the new and evolving artists really take it on the chin.”

When you look around at the complaints levied at commercial radio, one of the most often seen is the assertion of a lack of variety. True or false, this is a mere glimpse of what the musical future could be like in the wake of this sort of financial juggling. If stations are no longer willing, or no longer able, to afford to take chances on new music, then the artists that the Performance Rights Act purports to benefit will be muzzled over the long run.

This is setting up our creatives for failure, just to provide a few pieces of silver for the labels. Yes, there are inequities in the way things are now, but if you do a little digging, you will find that the majority of the horror stories come from artist interactions with their labels, not with radio. I believe that the family of Jimi Hendrix is only one out of many that would attest to this.

The C-Span piece can be watched online, and also includes Duke Fakir, an original member of The Four Tops, as the proponent of the act. One of his main supporting arguments is that Internet and Satellite already pay performance royalties and since they’re just the same as radio, broadcast should as well. I find this argument to be invalid. The royalties paid by these two types of media were originally brought about on the grounds that both Internet and Satellite “radio” were in fact completely new and different species of media and in need of a new structure. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

Image: C-Span Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

Rehr Resigns Post as NAB President/CEO

May 11, 2009

rehrThe President and CEO of the NAB, David Rehr, has resigned. I only had the opportunity to meet him briefly at an industry event but I can say that he has a passion for our industry. On behalf of the entire Radio Heard Here team, I would like to wish him well wherever his path takes him in the future.

Here with further details is a copy of the press release sent out by the NAB:

David K. Rehr, Ph. D., president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, announced recently that he is resigning.

” I have enjoyed leading America’s broadcasters through this time of change and challenge,” Rehr said. “Our efforts to educate America about the digital television transition have been enormously successful, and our effort to reinvigorate radio through the Radio Heard Here campaign is positioning radio broadcasters well for the future.”

“I am looking forward to building on these experiences and working with the broader Washington community to further advocacy efforts through marketing, communications and education,” he continued.

“David made a significant contribution and has been extremely dedicated to making NAB a stronger organization,” NAB Joint Board Chairman Jack Sander said. “On behalf of the board of directors and our member stations, we thank him for his leadership and wish him well in the future.”

“In large part due to David’s efforts, we have a very solid infrastructure in place. Our senior staff members are experienced and extremely talented. Our board of directors and members are a powerful force comprised of the best minds in broadcasting,” Sander said.

“We are prepared and well positioned to represent radio and television’s best interests as we progress into the digital future,” Sander continued.

Rehr said he plans to continue in his current role during a transition phase. During an interim period, Janet McGregor, NAB’s chief operating and financial officer, will work closely with Rehr and assume day-to-day duties until a successor is named.

Prior to joining NAB in 2008, McGregor spent 26 years at Lockheed Martin Corporation, most recently as president and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Investment Management Company.

Image courtesy National Association of Broadcasters.

Giving HD Radio a Boost?

April 6, 2009


HD Radio uses only one percent of its possible broadcast power, an issue that can cause reception problems when listening indoors. As those of you who follow the issue are aware, a massive NPR Labs study, released in July 2008, determined that increasing HD broadcast power would interfere with analog FM signals. Now the news is in from Washington, D.C., that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is beginning a new study with an eye towards fixing the problem.

The CPB study is aimed at finding ways to improve the HD coverage without producing interference on the FM band.

Amy Gilroy, a senior writer for This Week In Consumer Electronics, a.k.a. TWICE, last week stirred some interesting commentary with this report on the project:

The CPB announced that NPR Labs will conduct the $350,000 study to determine how to boost HD Radio reception so the signal may be stronger indoors for home radio products. […] The new study on how to better manage an HD Radio power increase is expected to be completed by the end of the summer in time for the National Association of Broadcaster’s (NAB) Show in Philadelphia in September.

Now I’m not sure if I’ll make NAB this year, but I’m sure going to try. If I do I’ll be Tweeting the research results as they are announced (yes, radio2020 is on Twitter. Come follow us.) In the meantime we can only wish them success in their research.

If a way can be found to pump up the power on HD from 1% to 10% it would have fantastic ramifications across the board for this relatively new technology.  As someone who has developed a fondness for the multichannel content stations on HD, I am excited to see what the CPB is able to find.

Once we have the results of the study in hand what’s the next step?

“There’s a great deal of motivation on the part of everyone in the radio industry to solve this problem. I know, once the study is concluded, the desire would be to go the FCC as quickly as possible with a widely supported industry recommendation,” said the NPR spokeswoman.

I look forward to writing about that when it occurs!

Photo courtesy of James Cridland, used under ts Creative Commons license