FCC wants comments on musicFirst petition


The FCC has opened a formal docket proceeding (No. 09-143) to seek comments on the petition from musicFirst seeking a declaratory ruling that radio groups have to carry its ads supporting a performance royalty. NAB responds that it will file comments addressing the “distortions” in the petition.

RIAA-backed musicFirst had claimed that certain efforts by broadcasters to oppose congressional passage of the Performance Rights Act (PRA), which would impose collection of performance royalties from broadcasters, are contrary to the public interest. The organization claims that radio groups have improperly refused to run its ads supporting the proposed fees and that broadcasters have distorted an important matter of public debate with their own on-air activities opposing the fees.

The FCC has now issued a Public Notice seeking comments on the musicFirst petition. In particular, the Commission wants to hear about these issues:

(i) whether and to what extent certain broadcasters are “targeting and threatening artists who have spoken out in favor of the PRA,” including a refusal to air the music of such artists;

(ii) the effects of radio broadcasters’ alleged refusal to air advertisements from MusicFIRST in support of the PRA;

(iii) whether and to what extent broadcasters are engaging in a media campaign, coordinated by NAB, which disseminates falsities about the PRA; and

(iv) whether certain broadcasters have evaded the public file requirements by characterizing their on-air spots in opposition to the PRA as public service announcements.
The FCC notice does, however, “recognize that substantial First Amendment interests are involved in the examination of speech of any kind, and it is not clear whether remedies are necessary or available to address the actions alleged by MusicFIRST.”

“We are seeking comment on the issues raised by MusicFIRST in order to develop a more complete factual record,” the Commission said.

“We are pleased that the FCC has taken the first step in response to the musicFirst petition,” said Jennifer Bendall, Executive Director of the musicFirst Coalition. “Since we filed the petition in June, corporate radio’s spokespersons have not only confirmed the charges made in the petition, but boasted that they will continue to use the public airwaves to misinform policy makers and the public and punish artists and musicians for speaking out in support of a fair performance right on radio while refusing to run musicFirst’s ads,” she said.

“NAB will be commenting on the distortions raised in the musicFirst petition at the appropriate time. Contrary to suggestions in the petition, broadcasters are under no obligation to carry everything that is offered or suggested to them,” said a statement from NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton.

Comments are due by September 8th and reply comments by September 23rd.

RBR/TVBR observation: The action that musicFirst seeks is so obviously unconstitutional that it seems to us an unnecessary waste of the Commission’s resources to even bother to seek comments. It should have been dismissed out of hand.

To get to the FCC Docket and file comments, go to www.FCC.gov, click “E-File” in the top bar, scroll down and click Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). The page gives instructions on how to file longer documents, but if you scroll down you will see a link for “Email filing instructions.” It is most important to specify the Docket Number, 09-143. And no, they do not make it simple.