Hispanic broadcasters hold tax protest


Representatives from numerous major Hispanic broadcasting companies predicted job losses for their employees and loss of service for their audience if Congress decides to enact a performance royalty, which the broadcasters see as a tax over and above the promotional value that has been seen as a fair quid pro quo until the big recording conglomerates hit a rough economic patch. However, an RIAA-backed organization thinks the royalty proposal should go forward.

Noting that broadcasters in general and niche broadcasters in particular are all struggling to stay afloat, veteran group owner Amador Bustos said, “The performance tax would be the added and final nail in the coffin for these small broadcasters like ours, and I think that it is just absolutely ludicrous that the record companies are trying to sort of bite the hand that feeds them.”

Border Media’s Miguel Villarreal was particularly worried about jobs, and the effect payroll cuts would have on local news reporting. “For most of us, the additional tax would mean laying-off some people. And when you layoff some people — one, two, however many you have to layoff — that’s one less person that has the opportunity to serve the community through the airwaves,” he explained. “We’re dealing right now with the outbreak of the swine flu. There are entire communities along the border that are being impacted on a daily basis, on an hourly basis. For us to lose one individual that could not go on the air to give information… could be devastating.”

NAB is backing counter legislation, the Local Radio Freedom Act, which would prevent a performance royalty. In the House, the measure has been endorsed by 184 members. Six senators are on board so far.

Speaking on behalf of the recording companies, Candelaria Reardon, a state rep in Indiana, said, “It is certainly important to understand the role that radio plays in this debate. However, the importance of music in our lives needs to be underscored, and we need to protect the rights of artists and producers. Latin music is an integral part of the lives of many Hispanics in the U.S., and having a full performance right will ensure that the musicians and artists will be fairly compensated for their creation.”

RBR/TVBR observation: If airplay has no value, you have to wonder why recording companies for years have risked breaking the payola laws to buy airplay when they couldn’t get it on merit. And when a performer scores a hit and spends a lifetime wondering where the money went, the performer should be starting the search with those same recording companies who cut him out in the first place.