PRA, race discussed on NPR


The Performance Rights Act is being hotly contested by the broadcasting and recording industries, and the debate often edges toward ethnic arguments. However, members of various ethnic communities can be found on either side of the issue, depending on whether they are in the radio or the music business.

NABOB’s Jim Winston commented for an NPR report. He said both radio and recording are facing a “paradigm shift” that is putting strain on old business models. But radio isn’t using the situation as an opportunity to find a way to “squeeze” money away from the recording industry.

Defending Radio One founder Cathy Hughes, who has been a vociferous opponent of PRA, he said, “Miss Hughes didn’t start the fight. It began with hearings in Congress, where these older performers — most of who happened to be African-American — were brought forward to tell their tales of woe that their songs were being played and they weren’t being compensated,” Winston says. “Now, nobody asked, ‘Well, what deal did you have with your record company? Why weren’t you being compensated by your record company for these records?’ Instead, everyone pointed their fingers at broadcasters and said, ‘You’re the bad guys.’ “

RBR-TVBR observation: The battle lines on PRA have nothing to do with race. The only reason minority radio comes up in the conversation is because it is already under severe financial distress for a number of reasons – the fear is PRA will just be one more stress point that will drive stations into bankruptcy. MMTC says as many as 33% of all minority-owned stations would be at risk if PRA were to become law.

As for broadcasters seeking to squeeze cash out of the recording companies, that might well turn out to be an unintended consequence of PRA. If broadcasters start treating each spin as an advertisement, we would soon find out exactly how much radio promotion is worth by the old fashioned law of supply and demand.

Musicians who have broadcast-worthy material they’d like for people to hear on the radio may well decide to waive their right to a royalty in order to get free airplay. If broadcasters find it worth their while to go off the rate card and accept that arrangement – essentially a barter deal, a cash-free trade of content for promotion, we’d be right back to where we are now.