Minority broadcasters appeal to higher authority

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Watchdogs who tried to convince House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) that his Performance Rights Act would be devastating to minority broadcasters failed. So they are now moving up the leadership ladder, pressing their case with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).


They see this as a civil rights issue. “As civil rights activists,” they wrote, “we know that minority owned radio stations speak directly to our communities and are a cherished resource that must be nurtured and protected. However, H.R. 848 would lead to severe reductions in sustaining and public service programming. Based on its knowledge of minority broadcasters’ finances, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Counsel predicts that H.R. 848 would lead to the bankruptcies of at least a third of minority radio stations.”

MMTC’s David Honig is one of the signers of the letter, along with Barbara R. Arnwine of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Francisco R Montero of the Spanish Broadcasters Association.
They are incensed that Conyers ignored their request to specifically look into the implications of the bill on minority broadcasters and, more broadly, its effect on the ability of minorities to fully participate in the US democracy.

It also says Conyers rushed the bill through without examining some other critical facts.

“For example,” they argue, “H.R. 848 would require all radio broadcasters to pay a performance tax, but there is no corresponding examination of whether these stations should be compensated for the value of airplay and promotion they provide to the record labels and artists.” It also did not examine the impact the bill would have on a station’s ability to serve its local community; no corresponding look into reviving the minority tax certificate; in fact, no corresponding look at a number of minority broadcast issues.

RBR/TVBR observation: Pelosi sets the agenda, so whichever side manages to win her support will have a huge advantage going forward. Surely she doesn’t want to hit broadcasters up for cash and simply bundle up about half of it and ship it oversees to international recording conglomerates.