Performance Rights Draws Heat on Hill

Broadcasters say bill would 'devastate' stations; head Pumpkin says it's only what's fair
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In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee this week, proponents and detractors debated a bill to require radio stations to pay royalties to artists for music that stations play.

We reported last week that the bill had been re-introduced into Congress.

NAB Radio Board Chairman Steve Newberry, who's also president and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Broadcasting, said the economic downturn has intensified his concerns about this bill and the impact it will have on radio stations.

"It boggles my mind that a bill that is supposed to be about benefiting artists, takes 50 percent of the performance fee and puts it into the pockets of the big four record labels," he testified.

Larry Patrick, managing partner of media brokerage firm Patrick Communications, and owner of 14 stations in Wyoming, also testified against the bill, stating that in his 40-year radio career, "I have never seen what the radio industry is currently experiencing. The economic downturn is having a significant and devastating effect on local radio," adding that passage of H.R. 848 would financially "devastate" stations.

"The recording industry is living in a fantasy world that is divorced from the critical depressed financial position in which almost every radio station finds itself today," stated Patrick.

Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan testified for the bill; he said he is a fan of radio and that it helped his career; however he stated: "The change to the law we are here to discuss only redresses an outmoded, unfair practice that favors one participant's needs over another. This legislation is simply a form of restoration to artists long overdue."

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Performance Rights Heats Up

The performance rights issue, or as NAB calls it, a “performance tax,” is getting more attention in advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue scheduled for next week.