Local TV is sick of SESAC


Meredith Corporation, E.W. Scripps Company and Hoak Media Corporation are leading a class action suit against performance rights organization SESAC, alleging anti-competitive behavior in the licensing of music used in television programming.

According to the Television Music License Committee, LLC, SESAC’s modus operandi is to “…sign up composers of music in popular television programs, guarantee them significantly higher incomes than they had received elsewhere, and then raise its prices without regard for the amount of music a station uses, employing threats of copyright infringement lawsuits as a bargaining tactic, according to the suit.”

Local broadcasters airing a program are forced to pay for what is in a program, the production of which they have no control over. There is no recourse, such as choosing less expensive music or hiring an alternate composer at more reasonable rates.

According to TMLC, “…essentially all television stations are compelled to pay SESAC the price it demands for a license because they cannot control what music is used in most of the programs and commercials they broadcast, and they cannot remove the music. Thus, to avoid broadcasting music without a license — a violation of copyright law — they have no choice but to accept SESAC’s licensing terms.”

TMLC says that other PROs, ASCAP and BMI, are signatory to consent decrees with DOJ prohibiting exactly the type of behavior SESAC is allegedly engaging in with its current television tactics.

TMLC says part of the problem is the cessation of negotiations between it and SESAC, which since 2008 has been negotiating terms individually with stations.

“SESAC’s actions are an unlawful restraint of trade. The antitrust laws prevent the other two PROs from using their collective power to extract coercive rates for music from broadcasters. We believe those same antitrust principles should be applied to SESAC,” said Charles Sennet, chairman of the Committee.

RBR-TVBR observation: There’s gotta be a way the trade press can get a piece of this fee-levying action. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? And here we are, doling out publicity each and every day, and for what?

Since there is in fact, no such thing as bad publicity, we are therefore prepared to offer a graduated fee schedule, with a base amount payable for a negative mention, a more substantial amount payable for a neutral mention, and a fairly lucrative amount payable for a positive mention.

We prefer cash, but traveler’s checks and money orders are OK. But if you’re thinking stock shares, don’t even bother going there.