Radio must change its tune on paying royalties to artists

It’s 2009 and artists are still not compensated when their music is played on the radio.

This week, radio station owners from across the country are coming to Washington to protect the music radio loophole in copyright law. Congress should say “No, it’s time for a change” and pass the Performance Rights Act.

The change we are seeking will bring the United States in line with every developed nation. The United States is currently in the company of countries like Iran, China and North Korea with no radio performance right.

We also lose tens of millions of dollars a year when royalties collected for American music played in other countries are withheld because we do not have a reciprocal right in the U.S.

The radio industry claims that it should not have to pay because radio play promotes music sales. But promotion is a red herring. Radio may have some promotional value, especially for new music, but over half the music played on AM and FM radio is catalog music that is at least two years old. Radio’s promotional value is marginal.

Artists are compensated when their music is played on satellite, cable and Internet radio. These platforms have some promotional value and pay a performance royalty. The promotional value is taken into account when the royalty rate is set, as it would be for AM and FM radio.

The National Association of Broadcasters produced a study that puts radio’s promotional value in the range of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion a year. But the data used in the study was destroyed. The Copyright Board of Canada dismissed the study in a rate-making proceeding.

Here is something we can verify: In 2007, music radio stations earned $16 billion in advertising revenue. Music promotes radio!

The Performance Rights Act has special accommodations for small stations. They will pay less than $5,000 a year to clear the rights for all the music they play. Public radio and college radio stations will pay $1,000 a year. Talk radio and radio stations that carry religious services will pay nothing.

We think it is always the right time to do the right thing and have offered to consider further provisions to help radio get through the economic downturn. The radio industry thinks it is never the right time.

Between 1998 and 2007 radio advertising revenues grew 30 percent. They fought a fair performance right on radio then, just as they do now. Circumstances have changed, but their tune is the same.

Members of Congress asked the radio industry to come to the table to discuss establishing a fair performance right. Their answer: No! The head of the NAB was asked if he would sit down and talk to the music community. He said he would “rather cut my throat than negotiate.”

It’s time to create a performance right on radio that is fair to artists, musicians and labels, fair to other music platforms and fair to radio.


Obama arrogant in CEO firing

From Sharon Rideout

(Regarding article “Obama’s auto plan throws lawmakers,” March 31.) So, President Obama did not confer with Congress before demanding that Rick Wagoner resign as CEO of GM. But as the head of our country has stated, “I am the president, I was elected.”

In other words, “I can do whatever I want to do without the permission or discussion even with my own party members.” Long live the dictator!

A sorry state of affairs for Americans, certainly.

Hermon, Maine

Europeans get it: Rein in stimulus

From Bill Rouchell

(Regarding article “Obama heads into G-20 talks, NATO challenges,” March 31.) Obama the Magnificent is pushing European leaders to follow his example and enact big, U.S.-style stimulus packages, to pump government money into their economies to create jobs and encourage consumers to spend.

But the leaders in Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, have made it clear they think that’s the wrong course and that they are unwilling to take on massive additional debt. The other European countries are divided, which, in a European Union that tries to harmonize members’ policies, is likely to mean little or no action.

Last week, the EU president, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, condemned Obama’s proposals as “the road to hell.” Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, said more mildly that his country couldn’t afford further stimulus.

So our king has no clothes but not enough people are telling him so.

River Ridge, La.

Curious credentials

From Lee D. Cary

Regarding the article about the Homeland Security secretary saying she has things under control (“Napolitano says thanks but no thanks, DHS has funds,” March 25), question: Wasn’t she the governor of Arizona, and isn’t Phoenix the kidnapping capital of the U.S.?

Mayhill, N.M.