In a move that is claimed to be for performers’ benefits, our Congress-critters have brought to the floors of each of the houses of Congress bills aimed at requiring radio stations to pay music performers who appear live on the stations. Rather than looking at live time on the air as a benefit for the performers, these new bills present such time as a performance for which the artists should be paid. While I agree that this is a performance of sorts, what has happened in the past was artists could get free advertising and promotion by appearing on the air of radio broadcasts. If this bill goes through, radio stations will be penalized for giving artists a chance to get free air time.
Yesterday, Rep. Berman and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D. – Vt.) offered to the floors of their respective houses legislation that would effectively codify the rectification of what Berman has literally characterized as evil: a very slight addition to US law that would enable the Copyright Royalties Board to determine royalties to be paid to a performers’ rights organization, by stations earning more than $1.25 million in annual gross revenue per year.
Stations earning less than that amount would pay a $5,000 annual fee. Public radio stations would pay $1,000 per year, apparently even if they don’t have a contemporary music format. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R – Utah) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Calif.) are co-sponsors.
Ahhhh, Orrin Hatch. Here is a critter who apparently never saw a right that couldn’t be wronged with proper legislation. And the clear indication that this bill isn’t truly for the benefit of artists and performers but rather an attempt to shore up the ever-more flaccid recording industry is the note that even stations not playing contemporary music formats will have to pay this. If you are on the air and earn above the cut-off floor of $1.25 million annually, you pay a set fee. Never have a live artist in the station to perform on the air? Pay $5,000 please. Have someone new every morning? Pay $5,000 please.
So, as has happened so many times in the past, some music industry lobbyists walked in House and Senate offices, pulled out their shrinking schlongs, and offered some critters money to suck them off. Happy for funds, the critters did so, and fully satiated they now are working on laws to make sure money keeps flowing to industry execs who will keep paying critters to suck them.
I’m not the only one to see this as a full-on negative move for radio, by the way. A spokesperson for the Free Radio Alliance noted:
“This bill, which was so long in the making, is drafted around exemptions and discounts, and the result is bad public policy,” Rought wrote. “Any fee — regardless of whether it’s discounted, tiered or reduced — will only serve as a foot in the door for the record labels to establish precedent for higher fees down the road. With copyright fees, history is pretty clear: Rates will only continue to go up. If passed, this could threaten the survival of local radio stations, would reduce the quality of their programming and would almost certainly reduce diversity in radio. This flies directly in the face of the goals that Congress and the FCC have set for our airwaves.”
Much like states implementing sales tax, low initial rates are in to make this look palatable and not so dangerous. Once the rates are in and people get used to them, expect them to get jacked up. These bills are set to punish radio stations for providing artists an on-air venue, and are put out at a low enough introduction level to not cause to many complaints. We will have fewer on-air opportunities for artists if these become law, and the prices will go up significantly once the recording industry execs and Congress-critters get the ball rolling.
On the floor of the House yesterday, Rep. Berman responded to that criticism by remarking the legislation would only apply to terrestrial radio. “The bill repeals the current broadcaster exemption,” he said, “but it does not apply to bars, restaurants and other venues, or expand copyright protection in any other way.”
What a load of crap. It’s got to start somewhere, and making big companies like Clear Channel pay first is just a way to get things going. Expect more and more music outlets to get bent over and dry-raped if this goes through.