AFM’s Lee offers to talk to Conyers about PRA


Dalhart TX, according to radio operator George Chambers, is a town of 7K, located in unrated territory in the upper northwest corner of the Texas panhandle. And Chambers thinks Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is out of his mind proposing a plan to hit broadcasters with a new performance royalty. He also told the American Federation of Musicians that he was solid with Radio One in running ads against it. AFM’s Thomas F. Lee has offered to hold a dialog with Chambers and his listeners on the topic.

Chambers owns and operates KXIT-AM and KIXK-FM in Dalhart, and makes no bones that it’s tough to keep a small radio operation like his afloat.

He also called the office of Conyers asking for a chance to testify at one of the hearings on the Performance Rights Act, and didn’t receive any acknowledgement of any kind from Conyers or his staff.

Chambers told AFM that there was no way PRA would benefit musicians or labels as far as he was concerned. Its adoption would simply force him into a non-music-based format.

Lee responded, saying that musicians simply want to be compensated for the use of their creations. He said it would bring the US into parity with other parts of the world, and to his credit, offered to discuss the matter with both Chambers and his listeners.

Here are copies of the letters:

From Chambers to Conyers

Mr. Conyers,

You ignore the people that contact your office. You or your staff have not a clue of what the local broadcaster goes thru and you keep beating this drum to hurt the local owner operator.

Minority, black owned, white owned, Hispanic owned It is obvious you and you staff have no idea of how hard it is to operate a local broadcast station. We are not Clear Channel, COX or any other broadcast group. I struggle to keep the doors open. With the tax we pay to the feds, local, state, city, Ascap, BMI and Sesac, there are days it might be easier to close the doors and make more money at Pizza Hut delivering Pizza.
What is a local owned broadcaster to do?  What would you say I do ?

We are in a small market serving 7, 000 people. 3 times as many people attended the Michael Jackson Funeral at the Staples center than we reach with our station!

Please sir, where do you expect the cash to come from?  I have yet to hear back from your office regarding my many requests to be heard.. Maybe someone in your office will reply. You have many items on your agenda, keeping my doors open is mine.

Thank you

George Chambers

From Chambers to AFM

Re: AFM and Radio One

We also have and will continue to air ads against this tax. I have sought to be heard at these hearings and have been ignored.

No one has taken the time to address what these extra costs will do to the smallest operators. Not a single person trying to push this TAX on broadcasters has been in our shoes. 

Has anyone connected to your group or any other group connected with this attempt to collect money from the broadcaster know that we do not get record service and must purchase the music we play — you want more money!

You need to get real and understand the situation the local broadcaster is in and extra this payment will hurt!  There is a point where I will drop music and go network talk and avoid any fee.

Nothing about this new TAX is fair and we will fight this unfair, greedy act by performers and their lack of understand that radio introduced them to the public and the artists made bad deals with the record companies. Broadcasters can not be blamed for poor choices on the artist part.

Radio Stations are presented with gold records as a thank you for making a song #1. Where did the money from sales go?

George Chambers


From AFM to Chambers

Dear Mr. Chambers,

Thank you for your thoughts.  I don’t believe you’ve been given correct information on this matter.  First, a tax is something that is levied by the government that when collected is used by the government to provide services for the people.  This is not a tax and it is improper to characterize it as such. 

So what we are talking about is a royalty payment similar to what radio stations pay songwriters when their songs are broadcast to listeners.  Radio stations use the intellectual property of the artists, musicians and songwriters to sell ads which keeps the money flowing to the station owners.  In this case, it is the musicians, artists, and copyright holders that actually take those words of the songwriter and give it value by creating a work of art.  Again, radio stations don’t sell recordings–they sell ads by using recorded performances and broadcasting them to thousands and millions of listeners.  While there may be an initial boost in sales of new recorded products when played on the radio, most radio stations are using recordings that are more than 2 ½ years old.  Their potential for creating sales revenue is long passed and yet the radio stations continue to exploit these older recordings because they have huge value in selling ads and making it possible for the stations to stay in business. 

The cost for a small station will be much less than for a large radio station for the very purpose of which you are concerned.  We want the small radio stations to succeed and the law will provide for a minimal payment from them.  But the law also will recognize that if the recorded products are played over and over on radio stations all over the US long after their retail value is gone, then there is value in this intellectual property and the radio station owners should not get it for free.  So car companies, insurance companies, beer companies, soft drink companies all use the power of music and buy ads year after year to sell more of their products on the backs of musicians, artists and copyright holders who receive nothing for the use of their recordings after their initial release.

If you invented a new product I doubt if you would give it to millions of people everyday to exploit for free.  Yet that is exactly what radio stations have been doing for years with recordings.  It is time for US radio stations to get in line with every major European country in the world and recognize the value of recordings in their businesses and pay a modest sum for that exploitation. 

I’d be pleased to speak with you and your listeners on this topic.


Thomas F. Lee

President, AFM

RBR/TVBR observation: Chambers spells out the very real problems faced by small broadcasters, who have costs big stations often do not, like having to actually by music recordings. For Lee’s part, we’ll grant his contention that the royalty is not, technically, a tax. And yes, radio uses music to sell ads. But Lee neglects to mention that each and every spin is a three-minute ad itself, give or take, that directly drives sales for the recording industry. It is precisely that value that Conyers, AFM and RIAA want everybody to forget about.