If it walks like a duck…

duck_ad.jpgThe National Association of Broadcasters is launching its next salvo in their ongoing battle with the Recording Industry Association of America. This latest campaign is in response to an RIAA-backed effort to levy what NAB calls a performance tax on local radio stations for the airplay of music broadcast over-the-air.

This proposal is being promoted in Washington by The MusicFIRST Coalition, formed recently for just this purpose – collecting performance royalties from broadcast radio in addition to songwriter royalties. A story on the RadioINK web site describes a MusicFIRST draft document being circulated in lawmakers’ offices.

According to the document obtained by Radio Ink, the coalition is proposing changes to the law that would do away with broadcasters’ royalties exemption and have small commercial stations — “small” is not defined — pay a flat royalty rate of $5,000 per year, while noncoms and college stations pay $1,000 a year.

In addition to an advertisement that will run in several Washington, DC political publications tomorrow (11/13), suggesting that the new rates are in fact a new tax on local radio, the NAB is sending a stuffed duck to all Congressional offices today, along with a copy of the ad.

The NAB ad text reads:

If it walks like a duck, and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck‚Ķ well, you know…

The big international record labels are asking for a congressional mandate to force local radio stations to pay for promoting the labels’ artists, music and concerts. But they’d rather you not call it a tax, because no one likes to pay taxes.

You can’t change the facts.

By levying a new fee on radio stations ‚Äì which some analysts estimate could reach $7 billion annually ‚Äì Congress would be taxing the stations in their backyards to line the pockets of international record label executives. Taxing radio for promoting their music free of charge? That’s one idea that just won’t fly.

No performance tax on local radio.

Rep. Gene Green and Mike Conaway have introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives (HCR 244) opposing such a tax, which has more than 50 co-sponsors from both political parties.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • I don’t quite understand how a fee stations pay to an organization representing artists and songwriters can be construed as a tax, which is money collected by government and going into the government’s coffers. Isn’t this a matter for negotiation between two private entities? Of course, the stations use the public airways and have an obligation growing out of the profit they garner from air-space made available at a modest cost to them. – Ted

  • Jon Weisberger

    Framing this as a “battle with the RIAA” is misleading. As the RadioINK story you quote says:

    “The MusicFIRST Coalition – — whose members include the RIAA, SoundExchange, the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, and the Recording Artists Coalition — was formed in June to lobby for a performance royalty from broadcast radio and television.”

    That’s a lot more than just the RIAA; it includes organizations that directly and solely represent artists, including many of the bluegrass favorites whose music and activities are covered so well on Bluegrass Today.

    Furthermore, there’s no more reason to call this royalty a “tax” than there is to call the royalties paid to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC a tax. It’s understandable that Clear Channel, Cumulus and other broadcasters would seek to use language that elicits an emotional reaction, but I don’t see why Bluegrass Today needs to emulate them. Shouldn’t coverage of this issue here be a little more even-handed and factual?