NAACP endorses bankrupting black radio


Despite estimates that a performance fee would wipe out at least a third of all existing minority-owned radio stations, the NAACP yesterday gave a thumbs-up to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) at its annual convention and endorsed his HR 848. The NAACP claims the fee, half of which would go to international record labels, is a civil rights move for musicians.

The lengthy resolution was titled “NAACP Celebrates the On-Going Legacy of Congressman John Conyers, Jr.” The resolution lashed out at Conyers’ critics, although it did not specifically name Radio One, the nation’s largest black-owned radio group, which has been leading the fight against black members of Congress who support HR 848.

The resolution also attacked “a few rich African-American millionaires” for exploiting African-American musicians, again without naming, but clearly referring to, Radio One Chair Cathy Hughes and CEO Alfred Liggins.

Here is the text of the resolution, picking up from where it begins to deal with the radio performance royalty issue:

“WHEREAS in recent months, Congressman Conyers has been the subject of unscrupulous and unfounded attacks on his commitment to the African-American community and his very character; and which attacks have ignored his lifelong and continuing fight for justice, equality and economic opportunity for minorities and for all Americans;

WHEREAS H.R. 848 ends a decade’s old, outdated exemption from the copyright laws that allows radio stations to exploit African-American and other musicians by not paying them for their music when it airs on radio.  Every modern country requires radio stations to compensate musicians, and copyright law requires that artists be compensated in every other circumstance – when their music is played on satellite radio, downloaded from iTunes or even played at a local bar.  H.R. 848 is about ending the exploitation of African-American musicians and paying them a fair wage for their work.

WHEREAS H.R. 848 is a labor issue: H.R. 848 is about paying artists for their work.  A fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay; that’s a plain and simple truth that is American as apple pie.  And it’s a principle inviolable to the labor movement. 

WHEREAS H.R. 848 is a civil rights issue:  Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to ensure that sanitation workers got paid a fair wage.  Compensating people fairly for their work is a basic civil right.  We did not wage a civil rights movement to enable a few rich African American millionaires exploit and hoodwink African-American musicians.

WHEREAS H.R. 848 protects small black radio stations:  For smaller radio stations – including over 90% of black radio stations – royalty fees under the bill are limited to only $5,000 a year for the rights to play all music they want.  That’s the cost of a few radio ads for an entire year’s rights!

WHEREAS H.R. 848 is life and death for many musicians:  The Civil Rights for Musicians Act of 2009 would ensure that fifty percent or more of all performance royalties go directly to the performers – not through the labels.  This would be the first time in history that performers would be compensated when their songs are played on the radio.  And if the performers still own the copyright, they get all the proceeds. 

WHEREAS H.R. 848 is fair to Big Radio: H.R.848 will barely cost Big Radio companies at all.  It’s the equivalent of five commercials a day.  And small African American radio stations are largely exempted from big payments to artists. 

WHEREAS H.R. 848 is the only source of income for many older performers.  They didn’t write the songs – but they brought them to life.  Without the performers, these songs would be nothing but words on a page.  And for many of them, radio performances are their only source of potential income.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NAACP endorses and supports H.R. 848, The Civil Rights for Musicians Act of 2009 and call on the NAACP units and members throughout the country to contact its Congressional members and Senators and the President of the United States to pass this measure into law so America’s performers can receive the respect they so long deserve.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People denounces the recent attacks on Congressman John Conyers, Jr. and recognizes his long-standing and continuing service to the Nation and his tireless commitment to the rights of African-Americans and to the principals of equality and justice.”

RBR/TVBR observation: The NAACP is woefully misinformed. Ask any minority owner of a small radio station in any market whether they are “largely exempted” from the fees proposed by HR 848. Ask them if they are likely to face bankruptcy if it is passed into law. Don’t believe Rep. Conyers without checking the facts.