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Actress Fran Drescher eyes GOP in latest push for fairness in music

Fran Drescher arrives at the 74th annual Directors Guild of America Awards, Saturday, March 12, 2022, at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

With Hollywood stars set to descend on Washington for Saturday’s White House correspondents’ dinner, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said she plans to make the most of her time with lawmakers by lobbying Republicans for the American Music Fairness Act.

Introduced in June by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the bill would require corporate broadcasters to fairly compensate all artists involved in the music played on AM/FM radio, similar to how they are compensated by streaming services. 

“For the first time, artists would see a piece of the massive profits made on the backs of their creative work,” Deutch said.

The legislation would ensure the copyright holder of a recording maintains the exclusive right to transmit their material. And it would address what Drescher called a “loophole” in the current law that allows nonsubscription terrestrial radio stations to play a copyright-protected recording without securing a license or compensating the creator.

“AM/FM radio is the only entity that still doesn’t pay our members for exploiting their music that they make a lot of money off of from sponsors,” Drescher, star of “The Nanny,” said Monday at the National Press Club.

She said the impact of the change would extend well beyond the stars associated with radio hits. 

“There are a lot of people, not the rich, rich, rich ones that you always think are in the music business, but most of the people that are the backup singers that are the musicians, and you know … not get a dime beyond that recording session,” Drescher said.  

“Not only is that not fair, but these are middle-class people. They have bills to pay. They have kids to put through school. They’re being exploited, and we’re here to close up that loophole,” she added.

The SAG-AFTRA president met with Democratic leadership earlier this year, building upon the lobbying efforts of Grammy-winning singer Gloria Estefan, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee in February.

Proponents of the bill face terrestrial radio lobbyists opposed to the bill, and the co-sponsors of a contrasting bill: the Local Radio Freedom Act. Backed by the National Association of Broadcasters, Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) introduced the bill in May to maintain the royalty-free status of terrestrial radio stations. 

Their bill states that Congress should not impose charges that could create economic hardship for locally owned radio stations. 

“These stations are integral parts of our communities and economy,” Womack said. “And it’s important Congress prioritize protecting access to over-the-air-broadcasting services.” 

But opponents of the bill argue that many local stations are now owned by wealthy conglomerates.

Drescher said her aim for this week is to start bridging the divide between Republican lawmakers and her members in the entertainment industry.

“We got to reach out across party lines and talk to some of the GOP, so that’s what we’re doing on this trip, which I’m very excited about,” she said. 

Tags AM/FM radio Darrell Issa Darrell Issa fairness in music Fren Drescher Gloria Estefan Kathy Castor royalties Steve Womack Ted Deutch Ted Deutsch

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