(by Deborah Parenti) Last week, Radio Ink featured a number of excellent commentaries on the most recent attempt by some in Congress to add more royalty fees on top of the ones already assessed on broadcasters. Those who went on the record in our headlines included small group owners, attorneys and other advocates, such as Paul Rotella of the New Jersey Broadcasters’ Association. New Jersey, and the industry as a whole, can thank Paul Rotella as someone they can always count on to be a strong and vocal champion for radio.
It will come as no surprise that this writer is right there with him. I love music, and I admire the talented artists who make it. But I love radio, too, and what it provides listeners and communities, which is much more than music. After all, that music does not play in a void on the radio – convenient, free, reliable radio. Ask any PD. What makes a great station and great ratings is “what goes on between the songs.” It’s the bits, the jokes, the information, the promotions and contests – the local connectivity that separates the market titans from the also rans. Radio sells music – and musicians – and the better the station (which take an investment at no small risk), the bigger the potential for selling products – all products – including song recordings and concert ticket sales.
That’s why advertisers pay for access to a station’s audience. Radio gets results. Period. Artists, on the other hand, pay nothing for what amounts to a “commercial” for their latest release or good time oldie. And that, by the way, is usually at least a three minute “commercial.” Bottom line, it’s “quid pro quo,” an even, fair exchange, similar to a trade deal.
But radio doesn’t need more positioning statements in this battle, at least not from me. Plenty have already been put on the table. What’s needed is a full industry chorus sounding as one voice, in harmony, and making sure that every thoughtful bit of logic and reasonable rationale are presented to the right people and in the right places. That means everyone needs to be on board. Big groups, small groups, state associations, trade associations, broadcast attorneys and anyone else with an interest in the industry’s future owe it to radio to show their support.
Unfortunately, some important voices seem to be mute or missing on the matter. It’s impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes but silence can be deafening. Imagine if just one of the major industry leaders was to join others in knocking on Congressional office doors. What would that impact be in those hallowed hallways – and how gratefully admiring would be their peers?
Others seem unaware of the potential danger to their ecosystem with heads either in the clouds or buried in the sand. Staying uninformed and/or unconcerned is simply not smart – and could leave an ominous opening for the wolves already circling the grounds.
Meanwhile, there are those who say the latest run at adding a performance royalty won’t ever see the light of day. Against today’s political landscape where anything can – and does – happen, it could be foolish to count on that. This should be approached as if it is going to take a village – the whole village – to win because it probably will. This can’t be a “what’s in it for me.” This has to be “we’re in this together” because we are – and this isn’t the only battle brewing.
In a Radio Ink feature last week, Frank Montero, Managing Partner of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth remarked, “I’m more concerned by a possible broader copyright reform proposal from the House. Such omnibus legislation has long been in the works and I would be concerned that a provision imposing performance royalty obligations on broadcasters could easily be slipped between the many multiple layers of copyright reform that such legislation might contain.”
And don’t expect the Local Freedom Radio Act to deter Congressional momentum from building for this latest performance royalty initiative. It’s a nice and much appreciated gesture, truly it is, but it’s a resolution, not a bill. The proposed “Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2017” is a bill.
John Garziglia, Partner at Womble Carlyle, offers excellent strategic advice. He encourages “…basic one-on-one lobbying, as well as taking every opportunity to invite local members of Congress to get to know your local radio station better.”
Wise counsel, and so, too, is keeping this developing story on the front burner. We intend to do that and I encourage you, your station, group or organization to take an active role in also keeping it in front of your Congressional representatives. And as you do, tell us about your efforts, the reaction you are getting, and we will share and spread the news. That’s part of our mission.
The heat is on. Let’s not let radio get burnt.
Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink Magazine and can be reached at Parenti@aol.com