House lion supports broadcasters


If Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) was singing on “American Idol” and the NAB State Leadership Conference was America, Dingell would be well on his way to winning the competition. Dingell told those attending dinner that he opposed PRA and was concerned about repurposing television spectrum for broadband.

To our knowledge, Dingell had not heretofore weighed in on the Performance Rights Act, which has stalled after clearing the both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last year. He certainly is not among the 256 signed on to the Local Radio Freedom Act which opposes PRA.

But he told the NAB gathering, “I’d like to express my opposition to legislation imposing a performance tax on broadcasters. I am concerned that such a tax would be of less benefit to recording artists than to record labels, many of which are based abroad. Further, recording artists and record labels have profited handsomely for years from the free publicity they get from broadcasters, a mutually beneficial relationship that a performance tax will destroy. Lastly, and perhaps most practically, it seems ridiculous to me to impose a new punitive fee on broadcasters during this time of recession, especially as broadcasters have seen their revenues decrease by up to 40 percent over the past several years.”

Addressing television broadcaster concerns about the FCC’s spectrum hunt, Dingell said, “I am concerned about plans circulating at the Federal Communications Commission to mandate the reallocation of broadcasters’ spectrum for mobile broadband use. Broadcasters already surrendered a third of their spectrum during the digital television transition, and I remain unconvinced by arguments that broadcasters are using their remaining spectrum inefficiently. It is my hope that the Congress and Commission can find a way to increase the spectrum available for the purposes of mobile broadband without threatening the availability of free, over-the-air broadcasting to the public.”

Dingell also recognized the longtime service that broadcasters have provided to the United States, and expressed his hope that it will continue on for decades into the future. He said, “In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your dedication to serving the American public. Your long-standing partnership with the federal government has yielded a world-class broadcasting system whose hallmark is free, over-the-air, local programming. Although new technologies and business models are emerging steadily and changing the marketplace for audio and visual content, I hope broadcasters will continue to serve the public interest and local viewers, a commitment that has set you apart for the past 70 years.”

RBR-TVBR observation: This means a great deal, and underscores yet again that on Capitol Hill, broadcast issues do not necessarily break down along party lines. Dingell coming out against PRA puts him at odds with another Democratic lion from the same state, John Conyers (D-MI).

But it would have meant even more a few years ago, when Dingell was still the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, rather than Chairman Emeritus. Now if we can only get Henry Waxman to echo Dingell’s sentiments…