Civil Rights groups press Senate for royalty hearing


Minority broadcasters and civil rights groups didn’t get the hearing they believed they had been promised before the House Judiciary Committee voted 21-9 to make radio stations pay performance royalties to record labels and artists. Now a coalition of civil rights groups is calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the impact such fees would have on minority station owners.

“This past spring,’ they wrote, “several African American and Hispanic American radio station owners and executives visited congressional offices to express concerns that passage of the public performance legislation, H.R. 848 in the House and S. 379 in the Senate, would disproportionately harm minority broadcasters and their listening communities, and make it even more difficult for future aspiring minority owners to acquire broadcast properties. They are also gravely concerned that this legislation will have an equally devastating effect on the civil rights advances we as a nation have made and will be able to make in the future.”

They continued, “Minority and women-owned owned radio stations speak directly to our communities and are a cherished resource that must be nurtured and protected. Therefore, we respectfully urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure proper due process by conducting a thoughtful public hearing on the likely consequences this legislation would have on minority and female radio broadcast ownership and service to minority communities before any official Committee action is taken on this legislation.”

Signing the letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) were Barbara R. Arnwine, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Maria E. Brennan, CAE, President, Ameican Women in Radio and Television; Amador S. Bustos, President and CEO, Bustos Media, LLC; Frank Flores, Spanish Radio Association, Chief Revenue Officer and Market Manager, SBS New York; David Honig, Executive Director, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Francisco R. Montero, Director, Spanish Radio Association, Counsel, Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association.

RBR/TVBR observation: On a more general note, you’d also think Congress should show at least passing interest on why it is that the labels themselves do not adequately compensate their artists, before they go plundering broadcaster bank accounts to atone for the deficiencies of the international conglomerates now begging on Capitol Hill. And an accounting of the true value of airplay would also be a factor of interest, you’d think. What about it, Mr. Leahy?