Capitol Hill newser picks up PRA buzz


A report in Politico notes that the stalled broadcast and recording industry agreement over the Performance Rights Act has fermented to the point that the RIAA/MusicFIRST forces are looking for levers to move the issue forward. Whether they can get a bill turned into a law remains questionable.

Politico notes that Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a strong supporter of the bill, is still the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he has the ability to put PRA on the schedule. It suggests that it may happen this year, and further notes that the bill may show up attached to some other piece of legislation. In short, the article states that the threats broadcasters had to keep in back-of-mind all last year still exist.

Of course, PRA isn’t the only piece of legislative work hanging around from last year. The Local Radio Freedom Act, which was a direct antidote to PRA, gained more than enough bipartisan co-sponsors to pass on a straight vote on the House floor. Any move to revive PRA will likely be countered with a renewed, possibly even stronger effort behind LRFA.

The tentative struck between broadcast and recording organizations involved acceptance of a 1% royalty, modified to accommodate smaller and noncommercial broadcasters, in exchange for a number of items, most prominently including installation of broadcast FM chips in cellular telephones.

The fact that the FM chip brings a third party into the equation that is anything but eager to have anything whatsoever to do with the agreement posed a problem. NAB suggested getting around it by adopting a sliding royalty payment beginning at 0.25% that increases as mobile FM chips become available to the public. Recording companies will not go any lower than 1%, and this became a sticking point that brought the entire process to a screeching halt.

Broadcasters are now waiting to see what the music industry has up its sleeve. NAB recently convened a meeting to discuss possible recording industry tactics such as license challenges aimed at individual stations, anti-broadcast lobbying on Capitol Hill and other similar tactics. Broadcasters are waiting to see what actually develops and considering their options.

RBR-TVBR observation: The Senate Judiciary Committee has a prominent Republican that supports PRA in Orrin Hatch (R-UT). On the House side, however, PRA sponsor John Conyers (D-MI) has been reduced to Ranking Member status. PRA is a zombie bill that is virtually impossible to kill off permanently. In Washington, anything can happen, but PRA likely will face difficulty finding a way out of the crypt into which has fallen during the next two years.