Watt plans to introduce performance right bill
“Once the performance right is recognized for musicians, the radio station will be incentivized to avoid legal action against themselves by entering into an agreement. We think this brings the parties to the negotiating table in a way that has not happened before,” Watt said.
The bill is expected to be introduced before the August recess, and an aide said the bill could come out as early as next week.
Watt declined to say which members plan to co-sponsor the bill.
Broadcasters are already starting to mobilize opposition to Watt’s forthcoming measure. Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), warned in a statement that Watt’s proposal would “kill jobs at America’s hometown radio stations” and direct money “to offshore record labels.”
“NAB strongly opposes a new performance tax that would kill jobs at America’s hometown radio stations while diverting millions of dollars to offshore record labels,” Wharton said in a statement released shortly after the hearing. “We continue to support private, company-by-company negotiations that are driven by the free market, as is reflected by recent deals between broadcast radio stations and independent music labels.”
Over the years, NAB has fiercely fought against legislative efforts to force AM/FM radio stations to pay recording artists and labels royalty fees for playing the sound recordings of their songs.
Wharton noted that two resolutions introduced in the House and Senate this year proposed to bar Congress from applying a performance right to local radio stations. Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and Gene Green (D-Texas) introduced the resolution in the House, which is backed by 71 co-sponsors, while Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) put forward a similar measure in the upper chamber.
Watt anticipates that broadcasters would lobby against his bill but said he hopes it will bring them to the table so a solution can get hammered out.
“We’ve been working on this issue for several years, and there’s been no resolution,” Watt said. “Just at a minimum, it will put more pressure on them to come to some resolution. They can sit down and negotiate an agreement about compensation, but they’ve shown no inclination to do that.”
Earlier this year President Obama appointed Watt to be the next director of the Housing Finance Agency, and he is currently awaiting full Senate confirmation.
When asked if his potential departure from Congress could prevent his bill from moving forward, Watt said: “We’ll deal with that when it comes.”
— This story was updated at 1:28 p.m.
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