- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Performers and others in the music industry have started a campaign calling for what they say is fairness in music royalties.

“Corporate radio has had a free pass for too long,” declares the Web site of the MusicFirst Coalition, an alliance of about 125 artists and trade groups, including Christina Aguilera, the Doors and the Recording Industry Association of America.

The coalition supports so-called “performance rights” for songs played over AM/FM radio. Currently, broadcasters are only required to pay composition royalties that recognize songwriters. In contrast, the digital radio industry, including satellite, cable and Internet radio, pays both performance and composition royalties.

The coalition argues that the discrepancy is unfair, asserting that “corporate radio” makes money through advertisements to listeners who tune in to hear songs.

“The United States is the only Western, free-market nation that does not require radio stations to pay artists and labels when they broadcast performances on the radio,” the group says.

Broadcasters, on the other hand, say the popularity gained by artists played on traditional radio is payment enough. In response to the coalition’s official debut on Thursday, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) responded in kind, labeling the proposed royalties as a “performance tax on local radio stations.”

“Were it not for radio’s free promotional airplay of music on stations all over America, most successful recording artists would still be playing in a garage,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.


The coalition’s Web site (www.musicfirstcoalition.org) urges visitors to lobby their representatives and provides form letters for doing so. It does not spell out a particular royalty rate.

R-rated press release

Eyebrows were raised earlier this month (as those who follow the Federal Communications Commission probably know) when Chairman Kevin J. Martin issued his statement in response to a federal court decision that invalidated a new FCC indecency policy.

The June 4 decision, rendered by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, said the commission’s policy against so-called “fleeting expletives” was, among other things, “arbitrary and capricious.”

At issue were two broadcasts of the Billboard Music Awards on Fox Television. In the 2002 show, Cher lashed out at critics, saying: “… ‘em.” The following year, Nicole Richie said: “Have you ever tried to get cow … out of a Prada purse? It’s not so … simple.”

That day, Mr. Martin, a Republican, put out a statement with his reaction. The first sentence: “Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the use of the words … and … by Cher and Nicole Richie was not indecent.”

In total, his statement used actual expletives — no dashes or abbreviations — 10 times.

When asked about his response last week, Mr. Martin, an outspoken indecency opponent, defended his word choice.

“I think it’s important for everyone to understand exactly the kind of language we’re talking about,” he told reporters at an unrelated Capitol Hill press conference.

Mr. Martin, illustrating the inappropriateness of the words, also made a point at the expense of the mainstream media, noting that most press outlets censored the expletives in their reporting.

c Channel Surfing runs on Wednesdays. E-mail krowland@washingtontimes.com.

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