Two Congressman Seek To Upend Radio Royalties

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Hey, radio industry: Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) just may be your two most disliked members of Congress, thanks to legislation introduced Wednesday (4/5) in the House of Representatives.


Issa, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee for Courts, Intellectual Property; and Deutch, a member of the Subcommittee; introduced bipartisan legislation that would “fix a decades-old inequity in copyright law that allows terrestrial radio stations to play music without compensating performers.”

Introducing H.R 1914, known as the “Performance Royalty Owners of Music Opportunity To Earn Act of 2017” (or, “PROMOTE Act”), which would allow performing artists to opt out of having their music played on the radio if the performing artist is not being paid an agreed-upon performance royalty.

Issa and Deutch are also co-sponsors of the “Fair Play Fair Pay Act,” which seeks to create “a modern and uniform system of rules governing music licensing for digital and terrestrial radio broadcasts.”

Explaining his rationale for the legislation, Issa said, “The PROMOTE Act calls the bluff of both sides in the debate over performance rights. The terrestrial stations playing these works without compensating the artists argue that airtime provides exposure and promotional value, while the artists argue the status-quo allows radio stations to profit on artists’ performances without providing any due compensation. Our bill puts forward a workable solution that would allow those who would otherwise be paid a performance right to opt out of allowing broadcasters to play their music if they feel they’re not being appropriately compensated. This is a win-win that helps solve this decades’ long problem in a way that’s fair to both parties.”

Deutch added, “We have been told for years that AM/FM radio provides valuable promotion to recording artists, but those artists have never been given the opportunity to decide for themselves. It should be the artist’s choice whether to offer their music for free in exchange for promotional play, or to instead opt out of the unpaid use of their music. I am proud to join my colleague Rep. Issa in introducing the PROMOTE Act to give recording artists more control over their work.”

The NAB was swift in its response, with NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton saying, “NAB has significant concerns with this legislation that would upend the music licensing framework that currently enables broadcasters to serve local communities across the country, and would result in less music being played on the radio to the detriment of listeners and artists.”

The PROMOTE Act could be dead on arrival.

As of Friday afternoon (3/31), the The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA) now has 168 co-sponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate—along with a mountain of support from the NAB.

The numbers reflect the addition of a trio of house members who have signed-on as LRFA co-sponsors: Reps. Ted Budd, Liz Cheney and Austin Scott.

Reps. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Gene Green (D-TX) are the principal cosponsors of the Local Radio Freedom Act (H. Con. Res. 13) in the House of Representatives.

Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced a companion resolution in the Senate (S. Con. Res. 6). Among the key supporters in the Senate for the LRFA is Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense. Cochran became a co-sponsor of the Senate legislation on March 23.

The Act reads, “Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over the air, or on any business for the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station broadcast over the air.”


RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Rep. Ted Deutch has just responded to our request for an interview, as a Breaking News bulletin was dispatched late Wednesday (4/5) sharing the news with RBR + TVBR subscribers. Until now Deutch’s office had been unresponsive, as Legislative Assistant/Press Secretary Jason Attermann was “not familiar” with our publication. This may explain why our local member of Congress is not familiar with the benefits of radio airplay, the radio industry, and how important radio airplay is for a recording artist who seeks to break through the clutter of YouTube and the tragedy of scantily attended shows in small venue after small venue. We look forward to speaking with our local Congressman to provide his rationale in detail for his support of this legislation to our readers. Actually, we’d love for him and others in Congress who support this royalty push to provide us with a list of the Top 5 Acts To Sell 1 Million Albums or Singles Without Radio AirplayWe then challenge these members of Congress to provide us with a list of recording artists who are on the record as saying they’d rather opt-out of radio airplay than have to deal with the lack of royalty payments. The “PROMOTE” Act, and the similarly crafted “Fair Play” legislation, seem ludicrous to us. We are very close to an up-and-coming Nashville artist named Rocky Bottom. He’s been working his butt off, with gigs on Lower Broad and a mini-tour under his belt. He’s used social media, CDs, Spotify, etc., to get his music out. You know what he wants the most? Airplay on Lightning 100, the Nashville station that gives airplay to singer-songwriters and established artists. Why? So he can grow as an artist. That’s far more valuable than anything. We respectfully hope that this argument is considered, and that this poorly written legislation be withdrawn. However, we respect both sides to every argument and hope the smartest path is taken for the benefit of musicians and radio broadcasting companies alike.


 


1 COMMENT

  1. In regards to HR 1914 or PROMOTE I think it’s about time large group owners(CBS/Entercom, IHeart,) just to name a few pay their fair share of what we hear on AM/FM stations around the country. I don’t know the figure but I’ll guess there are less AM stations playing less music these days. FM is media to listen to music, terrestrial that is. What internet streamers have to pay is hideous. I am hoping that Reps Issa and Deutch can pull this one through.

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