Bronfman and Ferguson square off


Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. recently weighed in on the Performance Royalty Act (PRA) standoff between the record labels and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). That brought an email to RBR-TVBR from PRA critic (and ex-NAB member) Charlie Ferguson.

First a little background. NAB went public in October with a “term sheet” for a potential PRA deal which both the record industry and the NAB would support for congressional passage. But musicFirst, which had been negotiating for the labels and artists, charged that the term sheet deviated from a deal that both sides had agreed to in July. NAB denies that there was any July deal. So, PRA is currently at a stalemate
Here are the comments that Bronfman made to Wall Street analysts during his Q3 results conference call earlier this month:

“Before moving on our financials, I’ll describe some recent public policy developments. Regarding the Performance Rights Act in the US, we were initially encouraged by the progress the National Association of Broadcasters and musicFirst had made in July. Unfortunately, the NAB’s membership voted in October to present musicFirst representatives with the legislative term sheet, which differed significantly from the July agreement that have been reached.

While we are pleased that US radio broadcasters have finally acknowledge their obligation to pay the recording artists who are the foundation of their business, we are disappointed that they failed to vote on the deal both parties had agreed upon and that this issue remains unresolved.”

Ferguson does not speak for NAB. In fact, he quit the organization over PRA. As GM of a six-station group, he sent RBR-TVBR this response to Bronfman’s remarks:

“Obviously, Edgar Bronfman Jr. has misunderstood what’s happened between the NAB and RIAA.  U.S. Radio broadcasters have NOT finally acknowledged an obligation to pay the recording artists who are the foundation of their business.  We have been paying them since KDKA in Pittsburgh started playing records over the Radio they received FREE from the Hamilton Music Store.  The records were given, with the agreement that Dr. Frank Conrad would mention where he had gotten the records when he played them.  The owner of Hamilton Music knew it would help him sell more records.  In doing so, BOTH the Hamilton Music Store and the recording artists received benefit.  Radio has ALWAYS paid the artists with in-kind promotion.  Radio broadcasters have not acknowledged any obligation.  The NAB, which does not represent the majority of U.S. Radio broadcasters, has offered an unauthorized settlement to Musicfirst.  We pay royalties to Irving Berlin for writing White Christmas, but we’re NOT going to pay Bing Crosby and Porky Pig for singing it.  The RIAA is trying to pull a classic ‘mob shakedown’ on the Radio Industry and the NAB has become complicit in the scheme.

Charlie Ferguson
Northern Broadcast, Inc.
General Manager