Texans’ Love of Radio Drives Policy Success

Taxes and regulations can burden broadcast businesses
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Oscar Rodriguez

The author is the president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters. TAB commentaries are featured regularly at radioworld.com.

In our latest advocacy effort in Washington, the Texas Association of Broadcasters clinched our 23rd co-sponsor of a Congressional resolution opposing the record label industry’s effort to force yet another royalty on local radio stations, this one for each song aired.

Already sporting the greatest number of co-sponsors of any state congressional delegation, the new co-sponsor further cements Texas’ standing as a bulwark against a “Performance Tax.” Such a measure would come on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars the industry collectively pays already to performance rights organizations, as well as the millions of dollars that Texas stations alone pay artists performing in their live concerts.

Both House co-authors of the Local Radio Freedom Act hail from Texas, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston. Their districts couldn’t be more different topographically, but the alliance and breadth of support from their colleagues reflects Texans’ strong connection with their local radio stations.

Radio broadcasters’ direct partnership with local businesses and their engagement in advancing community initiatives are the foundation of TAB’s successful efforts to advocate for or against public policy measures affecting the industry.

In the past few sessions of the Texas legislature, TAB has secured a state sales tax exemption for radio stations’ digital transmission equipment, a key protection in the state’s bootlegging laws involving pre-1972 sound recordings and myriad laws protecting radio newsrooms, including a shield law, uniform reporting and corrections standards and an anti-SLAPP law.

These victories expand on past successes ranging from the defeat of an ad tax several times over, to the adoption of a wide range of state sales and franchise tax exemptions that provide a level and vibrant economic playing field for broadcasters within the media marketplace.

In each case, policymakers’ understanding of the role that broadcasters play in advancing local communities was key to their responsiveness, and while regulators aren’t historically moved by such logic and relationships TAB has scored significant advances in that realm, as well.

TAB quickly responded to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s call at the 2012 NAB Radio Show in Dallas for revitalizing the AM band and mustered significant Congressional support when commission action stalled, helping push the measure past the finish line. Years before, the association sparked the successful fight in the 1990s against the FCC’s adoption and retroactive application of EEO rules that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in fines for about 18 Texas radio stations.

We’re putting everything we’ve learned from these battles into our efforts with other industry groups to defeat one of the greatest threats to our overall economy, a reduction in the federal tax deductibility of advertising costs. TAB is methodically educating lawmakers about the importance of advertising to the economy and how reducing the deductibility would hurt local businesses and stifle job and business creation.

Our success in such efforts continues to depend on the personal engagement by local radio broadcasters in our advocacy. This focus gives rise to TAB’s lobbying mantra that while TAB can help lawmakers understand an issue, only constituents can make them care. As long as radio stations continue serving their communities well and individual leaders engage in our advocacy efforts, lawmakers will continue to respond favorably and help keep radio strong.

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A Love Affair With Radio

Our latest reader letters include one from Jim Davis, who writes: ‘It’s easy to fall in love with this business. Like all love affairs, it must be nurtured to grow.’