American Women in Radio & Television Calls Performance Fee Harmful

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Posted by on March 31, 2009 at 10:35:35:

AWRT Calls Performance Fee 'Harmful'

By Julie Gidlow

Updated 0 Hour(s) 34 Minute(s) ago

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), American Women in Radio & Television (AWRT) president Maria Efantis Brennan expressed her group's opposition to the Performance Rights Act by calling the legislation "harmful."

"AWRT members consider this to be an attempt to 'tax' the local radio industry," she wrote. "This effort will not only harm radio stations, it will threaten new artists trying to break into the business and your constituents who rely on local radio. In light of the current economic climate, now is not the time to hit local radio with new, additional financial costs. An additional unbudgeted government-mandated expense like [the Performance Rights Act] will further strain my industry, which is already facing significant financial complications.

"To be clear, the large, internationally owned record labels are the force pushing Congress to impose this new fee on the local radio stations. Contrary to the record labels' misrepresentations, this bill is less about benefitting the artists and more about rewarding corporate industry executives and supporting the big record labels, while funneling billions of dollars to companies based overseas.

"For more than 80 years, a symbiotic relationship has existed between local radio stations and the recording industry. Record labels and performers thrive financially from free radio airplay, and local radio benefits from advertising dollars generated from playing the music. This free airplay touches 235 million listeners a week and provides the big record labels and their artists increased popularity, visibility and record sales."

She continued, "The system in place today fairly compensates everyone. Although the big record labels have seen their revenues decline over the last decade, local radio broadcasters are not the reason the recording industry is losing money, and it should not be the industry to fix it."

But musicFirst rejected the AWRT position. Martin Machowsky, a spokesman for the group, tells R&R, "The AWRT letter simply repeats the worn out arguments radio has used to protect a loophole in copyright law that allows music radio stations to earn billions in advertising revenue without compensating the artists and musicians who bring music to life and listeners' ears to the radio dial. First they call it a tax. Even the National Association of Broadcasters' witness at a Senate hearing said it's not. Then AWRT rolls out the promotion argument. But radio's monopoly on promotion is long gone. Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable music stations -- all of which claim to have promotional value -- pay a fair performance royalty. Music radio's promotional value will be taken into account in setting a royalty rate."

Machowsky continued, "Radio stations around the world pay a fair performance royalty, except that is in the U.S., Iran, North Korea, China and Rawanda. And radio stations in the U.S. that stream their signal online pay a fair performance royalty. But AM and FM music radio stations want a free ride."

He added that musicFIRST "has offered repeatedly to sit down with the radio industry to work out accommodations for small stations and to address concerns about the current economic downturn." And he added that members of Congress have asked representatives from the NAB to meet with musicFIRST. "Their answer is no!" says Machowsky. "The head of NAB, David Rehr, said earlier that he would 'rather slit my throat than negotiate.'"

The spokesman says "musicFIRST loves radio. We do not want to hurt small radio stations. But the big corporate radio groups would rather hide behind the small stations than talk. It is time to create a performance right on radio that is fair to artists and musicians, fair to other radio platforms and fair to radio."


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