Broadcasters lambaste FCC PRA play


A group of radio professionals says its one thing for the FCC to have an opinion about the Performance Royalties Act. It’s quite another to investigate those with an opposing view over which it has power, an act they say “reeks of FCC hooliganism.” They further argue that to all appearances, based on the way the FCC stated the issue, that it has improperly prejudged it prior to receiving any of the solicited comments.

“It is repugnant to the public interest for the FCC hurl an implicit threat against an industry it heavily regulates for taking an opposing view with respect to a proposed change in law. Consider what would be the public outrage if the IRS advocated a change in tax law, but when certain taxpayers spoke out against such a change, the IRS retaliated by commencing investigations into those taxpayers.”

The petitioners argue that much of the MusicFirst case is based on the situation decades in the past, under conditions which no longer imply (particularly the existence of rules which made it inadvisable to broadcast matters of controversy). They say that the FCC’s stance is “repugnant on the First Amendment level,” serving to remind broadcasters that they do not enjoy the same free speech rights as other media.

They conclude, “It is broadcasters who are defending the status quo by advocating that no change in the current law be enacted. The FCC, in the release of its Public Notice, is serving as a quasi-lobbyist for MusicFIRST, and has stepped far outside its role as an independent Federal agency. MusicFIRST is attempting to upset a multitude of business, financial and contractual arrangements made long ago. It is repugnant for the FCC to use its regulatory power over broadcasters’ licenses to support that effort.”

The document comes from four small radio broadcasters, filed on their behalf by attorney John Garziglia of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC. They include:

* William H. “Bill” Payne, of K95.5, Inc. and Payne 5 Communications, LLC1

* Douglas M. “Art” Sutton, Jr. of Georgia-Carolina Radiocasting Company, LLC, Sutton Radiocasting Corporation, Appalachian Broadcasting Company, Inc., Lake Hartwell Radio, Inc. and Tugart Properties, LLC2

* Hal Widsten of Guadalupe Media, Ltd.3

* Jeff Robinson of Robinson Corporation4

RBR/TVBR observation: These petitioners charge the FCC with advocacy for one side on a controversial and hotly debated issue over which both NAB and MMTC suggest it has no authority in the first place. We agree.