Coalition sends Leahy a PRA wakeup call


A roll-call collection of minority media organizations have told Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that if enacted, the Performance Rights Act will probably bankrupt a third of existing minority broadcasters and squash the growth prospects of most of the survivors.

Leahy’s committee will mark up PRA legislation Thursday 10/15/09. Leahy is among the bill’s supporters.

The letter is not long, so we’ll let the organizations speak for themselves:

“Minority broadcasters are indispensable as an information lifeline for our communities. Yet minority broadcasters are seriously underrepresented on the public airwaves, holding about 7% of the licenses and less than 2% of industry asset value. Most minority-owned stations operate with inferior facilities and are handicapped by weak financing.

“The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the National Association of Media Brokers estimate that this legislation would throw at least a third of minority broadcasters into bankruptcy. The surviving stations would find it virtually impossible to raise the capital they need to grow. Growth capital – the only kind available – would only enable small broadcasters to become large enough to trigger the huge royalty fees that preclude any hope of eventual profitability.

“The new FCC will have its hands full correcting the historic inequities facing minority broadcasters. In the meantime, Congress should not make the FCC’s job far more difficult by enacting this legislation.”

Among the signatories to the letter are

* Valerie White, Chair, Black College Communication Association

* Gus West, Chair, The Hispanic Institute

* Rob Neal, Executive Director, International Black Broadcasters Association

* Brenda Lowe, President, National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals

* Jose Marquez, President and CEO, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology

* Barbara R. Arnwine, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

* David Honig, President and Executive Director, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council

* Harry C. Alford, Jr., President & CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce

* Ivan Roman, Executive Director, National Association of Hispanic Journalists

* Amador Bustos, Chair, Spanish Broadcasters Association

* Onica Makwakwa, Executive Director, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc.

RBR-TVBR observation: The fact that all it took was one transaction in Pittsburgh and one in Grand Rapids to eliminate Black radio in both ought to be enough to prove the precarious position of minority broadcasting in the US.

We understand the well-meaning attempt to improve the lot of musicians, but the only ones who stand any chance of benefitting are the small minority that enjoy headliner status – the musicians who managed to strike it big.

The others, who may have been on a recording that didn’t shoot to the top of the Billboard charts – like Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), or who played violin or keyboards or drums on a hit record, are going to be lucky to amass enough of a royalty check out of this bill to be worth the bother of carrying to the bank.

But a large proportion of the cash will be shipped overseas to the recording conglomerates who, although not performers, somehow wrote themselves into the receiving end of this misguided legislation, even though their own failure to comprehend and deal with changes in the marketplace brought on by the internet are the major cause of their own woes.

In the end, Leahy and John Conyers (D-MI) are standing up for rich musicians and a handful of large international corporations while putting all broadcasters, and in particular minority broadcasters, at risk.