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Ferguson: NAB Is ‘Stranded on an Island’

GM who quit the association says appeasement won't work

Author Charlie Ferguson is general manager of Northern Broadcast Inc.

With all due respect, I couldn’t disagree with Mr. McLane more on this entire issue of Performance Royalties. I was also amused by Dennis Wharton’s response that history will show the NAB’s wisdom on this issue.

The MusicFirst Coalition claims that artists don’t need radio anymore and Paul McLane opines that “radio’s bill has come due.” If that’s true, someone should put in a call to the Dixie Chicks and ask them if they’d like to back up to right before radio stopped playing their songs! It would also be interesting to see which other artists would volunteer to have their music expunged from Radio, as Mr. McLane suggests. If there are no other volunteers, perhaps radio should select one to re-test “the Dixie Chick effect.”

This offer to pay MusicFirst by the NAB board was made without consulting the membership and positively smells to high heaven of being a back-room deal. It was laid out under cover of darkness, to be finished off after the election.

There wasn’t enough political will to even bring a bill to the floor of either the House or the Senate last session, but broadcasters need to be alert because that could change suddenly. Paul McLane suggests the NAB’s offer was the better part of valor for the industry, but I believe most members of Congress are savvy enough to realize they don’t want to face the next election in their home state or district after redistributing radio’s revenues to the record companies.

NAB must also be frustrated that as soon as they offered to settle, MusicFirst refused, called the NAB’s bet and raised them immediately. The NAB Radio Board now finds itself stranded on an island – no deal with MusicFirst – and no tenable route of retreat. The “deal” MusicFirst seeks is total surrender and the NAB’s offer has given them all they need to hang tough and take as big a bite out of radio’s revenues as they wish.

With all due respect to the board, we simply can’t afford it – and Congress needs to know the NAB’s offer doesn’t represent the vast majority of radio broadcasters. Mr. Wharton says no one else is quitting the NAB, but I don’t believe it. It’s time for the real radio broadcasters to step up and make ourselves heard. It’s obvious to me the NAB Board vision for the future is to appease – and history has shown that doesn’t tend to work out well.

Perhaps a refresher course is in order for NAB leadership. I recommend they check the library under Neville Chamberlain.

“Michigan Owner Says No Thanks to NAB”