House Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced her support for new royalties for singers Thursday on Capitol Hill and didn't miss the opportunity to tie it to healthcare reform.
Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaking at the Recording Academy's Grammy on the Hill advocacy event, said singers, songwriters and musicians deserve to be compensated for their creativity.
She then turned to healthcare, noting 44 percent of artists lack health insurance and most artists are struggling without the financial backing of a full-time employer.
"Many strive to make it on their own and follow their creative, entrepreneurial spirit, yet face soaring costs and skyrocketing premiums," she said.
“Health care reform gives all artists — and every American — the freedom to lead healthier lives and the liberty to pursue their dreams," she said.
The Performance Rights Act would require radio stations to pay royalties to singers, as online radio and satellite radio already do. Broadcasters have fiercely pushed back against the proposal, this week saying radio stations do a great service to singers by providing free promotion of their work.
Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), vice chairs of the House Judiciary Committee, support the bill.
In the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.
But there is strong opposition. In the House, Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas) and Mike Conaway (R-Texas) are circulating a "dear colleague" letter saying a performance "tax" would be detrimental to new and unknown artists and would decrease the diversity of programming on the airwaves.
"College radio stations – an important voice for up-and-coming and independent artists – would be hit two-fold by a performance fee," said Peggy Binzel, spokeswoman for Free Radio Alliance. "People don’t realize there are many hidden costs associated with this legislation, such as complex computers systems for playlist tracking and reporting in order to comply."