Dingell opposes 'punitive' radio tax

Rep. John Dingell assured broadcasters Tuesday night that he is against the "tax" he said would be imposed by the Performance Rights Act. He spoke just hours after fellow Rep. John Conyers Jr. said performers have the right to compensation.

"I'd like to express my opposition to legislation imposing a performance tax on broadcasters," Dingell said at a National Association of Broadcasters dinner. "I am concerned that such a tax would be of less benefit to recording artists than to record labels, many of which are based abroad."

"Further, recording artists and record labels have profited handsomely for years from the free publicity they get from broadcasters, a mutually beneficial relationship that a performance tax will destroy," said Dingell, chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Lastly, and perhaps most practically, it seems ridiculous to me to impose a new punitive fee on broadcasters during this time of recession, especially as broadcasters have seen their revenues decrease by up to 40 percent over the past several years."

The music industry argues that 75 percent of radio stations are owned by big corporations that have plenty of money to spare. The Recording Industry Association of America, the Future of Music Coalition, Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and other independent artists and labels, say performers should be compensated when their songs are aired.

Tuesday, Conyers likened not paying singers to "involuntary servitude."

"How many other areas in our economic system are there that your work can be taken and you have no recourse to compensation?" Conyers said. "I'm going to assign this to staff lawyers to research it for me because I can't come up with any right now."

Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he hopes to bring the bill to the floor this year.