Radio stations, record labels duke it out in op-ed pages

Musicians and broadcasters are at each others' throats again over the Performance Rights Act, this time with dueling op-eds in the Washington Post.

This morning, National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith wrote that the broadcasting industry shouldn't be blamed for the record labels' shortcomings.

"It's unfortunate that the Internet has destroyed the business model of the record labels," he said. "But that is not the fault of radio, which continues to build and nurture the careers of countless artists through free radio airplay."

Free radio airtime "remains an unparalleled promotional platform for music, generating untold billions in album and concert sales and merchandising opportunities," he said. Therefore, radio stations should not have to pay royalties to singers.

The music industry, meanwhile, says it's not too much to ask to pay singers and bands for their work. Radio stations' escape from royalties is a "loophole" that needs to be closed, says Jennifer Bendall of musicFIRST, a coalition of artists, labels and music industry unions.

"The music community has been fighting since the early days of radio to close the copyright loophole," she wrote. "Other radio platforms -- satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV music channels -- pay performance royalties. Even AM and FM music radio stations that stream their signal online -- same music, same DJs, same ads -- pay performance royalties. They do not pay for over-the-air broadcasts."

Both sides have ratcheted up their lobbying over the past month, although it's unclear how soon the Performance Rights Act, which has passed judiciary committees in both chambers, will hit the floor.