- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A “performance tax on local radio.” That’s how the National Association of Broadcasters is characterizing a recording industry push for compensation from over-the-air radio stations for music played on the public airwaves.

Currently, traditional AM/FM broadcasters pay composition royalties, but not performance royalties. Satellite radio, cable radio and Internet radio broadcasters, on the other hand, pay composition royalties as well as performance royalties.

Performers say this discrepancy is unfair, and they are demanding performance royalties from traditional broadcasters. The musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition,made up of groups such as the American Federation of Musicians, SoundExchange and the Recording Industry Association of America, has not specified the amount it is seeking.

“Of all the ways we listen to music, ‘Corporate Radio’ is the only medium that refuses to pay performers even a fraction of a penny for their voice and creativity,” Mark Kadesh, the group’s executive director, said recently.

Traditional broadcasters counter that, for decades, unlike newer forms of radio, they have done performers a service by promoting new music and helping new stars become popular.

“They haven’t kept up with the times. Now they are asking Congress to tax local radio stations to subsidize their failing business model to the tune of billions of dollars,” says an NAB radio ad airing locally on WMAL-AM (630), WTNT-AM (570), WWRC-AM (1260) and WTOP-FM (103.5).

The lobbyist group began a media blitz this week as a House committee heard testimony on the issue. In addition to radio spots, the NAB ran print ads in the Politico, Roll Call and Congress Daily yesterday when the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, the Internet and intellectual property held a hearing, “Ensuring Artists Fair Compensation and Updating the Performance Right and Platform Parity for the 21st Century.”

Musicians Judy Collins and Sam Moore testified on behalf of musicFIRST.

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In other news

c The quality of broadcast news is “rapidly declining,” but it isn’t a result of sensationalism or consolidation of ownership, but rather reductions in newsroom staff, according to a labor union that represents newsroom staff.

The Writers Guild of America East lobbies on behalf of writers for broadcast, cable, film and other forms of news media. The group last week put out a white paper, “Broadcast Newswriters Speak About News Quality.” The report is based on research conducted by the union and a survey of its members who work in local and national broadcast news.

The group cites several ways it says staff cutbacks are hurting news quality, including not enough people to fact-check copy and the repetition of stories.

Like newspapers and other traditional media, TV and radio broadcasters have been pressured to adapt to the growing popularity of the Internet and broadband devices as sources of news. As profits have fallen, many news organizations are cutting back on staff.

c Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting has agreed to acquire WLRT-AM, a radio station in Hampton, Va., from Hampton Radio Inc. In the D.C. area, Red Zebra owns Triple X ESPN Radio, heard on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and 730 AM.

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