Radio execs descend on Washington for NAB PRA conference


The Performance Rights Act has sparked debate on Capitol Hill, and powerful legislators have moved the bill out of committee in both the House and the Senate. There it has stalled, but its continued dormant existence has also sparked a debate within the broadcasting community on what to do about it. NAB has arranged a face-to-face get-together for members of its Radio Board in Washington Friday 8/6/10 to carry the discussion further.

Emmis St. Louis cluster executive John Beck, who represents Missouri and Kansas on the NAB Radio Board, confirmed that he will soon be departing for Washington to attend the meeting. He emphasized that the industry was still prepared to fight the current bill, but also confirmed that there were proposals on the table that have been deemed worthy of the outlay of capital to transport the entire Board to Washington.

There is no question where Beck stands on the issue. “The Performance Rights Act as proposed would be devastating to the industry – turn the lights off,” he told RBR-TVBR. “You take 7% of our revenue and you’ll just see companies go out of business.”

Beck said that he did not expect the meeting to yield a final resolution to the debate.

NAB confirms that the meeting will take place, and stated that it remains unalterably opposed to the bill in its current form. The organization said that it honored the request of certain legislators to talk with RIAA, and that those talks have yielded some ideas, but nothing close to an agreement. NAB will continue to oppose any proposal that is not in the long-term interest of broadcasters.

The recent remarks of Bonneville CEO Bruce Reese provided an indication that some in the radio business were ready to find a way to come to an agreement in what had been an all-or-nothing battle between broadcasters and the record companies.

That instantly sparked an equal and opposite reaction from others, including Saga Communications CEO Ed Christian, who took to the virtual pages of this publication to express his view that PRA should be categorically opposed. Read Ed Christian’s comments

Among the initiatives being proposed we’ve been hearing about designed to sweeten the pot for broadcasters are congressional steps to mandate a broadcast radio presence on mobile phones or a break on royalty payments for internet streaming, but Beck said he was unable to get into that matter with any specificity.

Some other board members contacted by RBR-TVBR have declined to comment on where things stand, but one did intimate a fear that some members are too eager to reach a PRA settlement.

We’ll know more Friday.

RBR-TVBR observation: Emmis’s St. Louis radio cluster exec John Beck is very confused about RIAA’s sudden contention that radio airplay is a relatively worthless marketing tool. Record companies have given him numerous gold records as a thank you for his stations’ invaluable assistance in making the records hits.

We’re stunned that certain legislators buy this act – the record company lobbyists that members of congress meet have a very different line than the record company marketing execs that spend most of their time trying to get the very same airplay that the lobbyists are badmouthing.

Hey legislators – how about making RIAA stick to just one story instead of the two mutually-exclusive ones they have going even as we speak?

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