House panel looks into pay for play

Bill would force broadcasters to pay for songs aired

WASHINGTON -- A key House panel plans to open its investigation of legislation that would force broadcasters to pay musical performers for songs aired on the radio.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., wants a hearing on his Performance Rights Act, which would treat traditional radio the same as Internet music and other deliver systems. Most other nations already compensate the performers as well as the songwriters and music publishers.

Musicians and the labels contend that the bill undoes a long-held wrong that traded the promotional value of over-the-air radio for a copyright payment for performers.

Broadcasters contend that the promotional value enjoyed by musicians for free airplay is a fair bargain and claim that the royalty is akin to a new tax.

It was unclear who would testify before Berman's subcommittee on intellectual property, but the bill is contentious, and broadcasters are hoping to prevent the hearing from happening.

A similar hearing is likely in the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill's fate is unlikely to be decided before Congress adjourns this year.