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House Committee Takes Up American Music Fairness Act

Nadler schedules a markup of the bill as the end of this congressional term nears

The House Judiciary Committee plans to discuss the American Music Fairness Act on Wednesday.

The bill would require AM and FM radio stations to pay royalties to performing artists for recordings that they broadcast. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), is a supporter of the bill, which is fiercely opposed by the National Association of Broadcasters.

Earlier this year Nadler said the exemption enjoyed by broadcasters from such royalties is “grossly unfair” and that “its impact has become increasingly inequitable over time as the shape of the industry has changed.”

An agenda for this week’s committee meetings includes a markup of the bill. A markup is when a committee debates and amends a bill before possibly advancing it to the House floor.

Proposals to end the broadcast exemption have failed in Congress for years. Could this time be different?

The NAB has said that “performance tax proposals have struggled to gather supporters in Congress because members of Congress understand the devastating effect they would have on local radio.”

NAB President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt reacted to the news of the scheduled markup by pointing out that approximately 250 legislators, “including a majority of the House of Representatives,” have cosponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would protect the exemption.

“A markup of this legislation as drafted simply ensures that yet another Congress will pass without meaningful progress on this issue,” he said in a statement.

LeGeyt reiterated the NAB position that the AMFA would institute “an onerous performance fee that would irrevocably damage local radio.” He criticized the recording industry for “its uncompromising pursuit of this one-sided proposal that would upend the relationship between artists and broadcast radio.”

Former Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the musicFIRST Coalition, recently criticized broadcasters for “misusing their government-granted airwaves to run false and misleading ads attacking a common-sense solution that would close the legal loophole that allows them to continue this unjust practice.”

The markup comes as the current congressional term nears its end in the first week of January. With Republicans ready to reclaim a slim House majority, the chairmanship of the committee will switch parties. The ranking Republican is Rep. Jim Jordan.