‘Local Radio Freedom Act’ Returns


By Adam R Jacobson

Another Congress, another push for the Local Radio Freedom Act.

Bipartisan resolutions were introduced in both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on Tuesday (1/24) that oppose “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” on local broadcast radio stations.

This mirrors legislation introduced in September 2015, which boasted 212 co-sponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate.

Rep. Conaway (R-Tex.)
Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.)

The legislation is also a near carbon-copy of what was introduced in February 2013, and H. Con. Res. 21, which Reps. K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and Gene Green (D-Texas) introduced in the 112th Congress.

The House members are again the members of Congress spearheading this initiative.

Conaway’s district includes the Odessa-Midland and San Angelo, Texas markets; Green’s district includes much of the eastern portion of the Houston metro.

As was the case in previous legislative efforts from Conaway and Green, the LRFA signals the opposition by members of Congress to any potential legislation that would impose new performance royalties on broadcast radio stations for music airplay.

Given the recent activities of Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights, such a nix on Congressional legislation would prevent GMR — or other rights organizations and recording companies looking for increased royalty dollars — from going after AM and FM stations’ owners.

“Local radio enjoys a symbiotic relationship with record labels and recording artists that promotes new music discovery, fosters musicians’ careers, and drives music sales,” said NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith. “America’s broadcasters are deeply grateful to the scores of lawmakers who recognize radio’s unparalleled role in promoting music. We thank them for standing in opposition to a job-killing performance royalty that would devastate the economics of local radio.”

Rep. Gene Green (R-Tex.)
Rep. Gene Green (D-Tex.)

This time around, the LRFA enjoys bipartisan co-sponsorship from 115 members of Congress.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N. Dakota) introduced a companion resolution in the Senate, S. Con. Res. 6.

The resolution reads, “Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over the air, or on any business for the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station broadcast over the air.”

In a release sent to media Tuesday afternoon (1/24), the NAB offered some choice quotes from individuals who defend the power of radio and its benefit to the music industry.

Among the quotes offered is one from none other than Irving Azoff, who serves as Chairman/CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment in addition to being the primary individual behind GMR.

In a May 2016 piece appearing at Re/code titled, “Dear YouTube: An open letter from Irving Azoff,” he wrote:

If you want YouTube to be compared to terrestrial radio, then you have to be a good partner to artists like radio is. Radio works with artists so they can present music to their fans in the way they intended. Radio does not provide unlimited, on-demand access to music which can be shared. Radio doesn’t leak music, and it doesn’t make unfinished or poor-quality live recordings available.

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: We were stunned to see a quote from none other than the Radio Music License Committee’s Public Enemy No. 1 offered by the NAB in a release outlining what it sees are the benefits of a Congressional resolution that shields radio broadcast companies from new performance fees or the like. Things aren’t exactly peachy between the RMLC and GMR, and as Radio INK reported Monday (1/23), the latest GMR court filing states that radio stations represented by RMLC don’t want real competition concerning the music they play, nor do they want to pay for the value GMR and its writers bring to the table. Thus, GMR asked the court to dismiss the RMLC’s lawsuit for reasons that include a venue complaint; GMR wants the case moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where it is based.

It is our duty as journalists to remain neutral, and to fairly report the ongoing dispute between RMLC and GMR. But, one astute RBR + TVBR reader points out something that has not gotten the attention of industry trade journals.

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