Radio broadcasters question the PRA negotiating process


Key executives at the NAB said that there was no effort to pull off a coup behind closed doors as NAB entered into talks with representatives of the music business to work on the Performance Rights Act. And the NAB’s actions now involve presenting the state of negotiations to radio and finding out how the radio business wants to proceed.

Here’s how the process was described:

PRA bills came out of both judiciary committees in the Senate and the House. NAB effectively roadblocked them with the Local Radio Freedom Act, but the blessings of committee members and key members of Congress were like a legislative loaded gun that might go off at midnight during a lame duck session.

Many of the same key members of Congress asked the two sides to talk, and recent ex-Senator and current NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith said he knew it was better to talk than to play hardball with Congress and have something very undesirable imposed without your participation.

The talks started off with the two sides far apart, but NAB was able to move payment numbers down and get the sweetener package increased.

Some radio broadcasters wondered why they were running NAB PSAs to stop the performance tax while talks were going on. NAB said those ads represented a show of solidarity within the industry and greatly strengthened NAB’s hand when it was engaged in talks.

Somebody else asked what radio broadcasters were supposed to tell legislators who they asked in no uncertain terms to oppose PRA? Smith said to tell them to continue to oppose anything that NAB is opposed to – and stressed that NAB is utterly opposed to PRA as written. Legislators might be asked to support an entirely different bill down the road.

Asked about holding the line until a new, more Republican Congress is seated, Smith said that even though he is still a registered Republican, his current job is non-partisan. He also noted that many of his former Republican colleagues consider copyright ownership as a form of property right, and are much inclined to support the labels in this industry v. industry issue. However, he added that a more grid-locked Congress would make it more difficult for legislation of any kind to pass and would likely make NAB’s task of opposing PRA as currently written easier.

By the same token, Smith and Joint Board Chair Steve Newberry also noted that making the 1% royalty rate changeable only by mutual consent or an act of Congress was a key element to the deal. Smith said it’s easy to introduce legislation, but its hard to pass it, and putting the rate into this process gives NAB much more leverage than it would ever have in a CRB regime.

RBR-TVBR note: See RBR-TVBR Exclusive: Cell phones might sell Radio on PRA this report explains the value to all parties involved.