NAB gives Bush royalty earful


WASHINGTON -- Broadcasters went straight to the top in their effort to head off a music industry push to win a performance royalty for over-the-air transmissions as the head of the National Association of Broadcasters urged the White House to turn back the effort.

In a letter to President Bush, NAB president and CEO David Rehr touted what he called the "fairness" of the current system, in which only songwriters and music publishers get paid for songs played over the air.

"The existing system is the epitome of fairness for all parties: Free music for free promotion," Rehr wrote.

The letter comes after Bush, answering a question during an appearance in Nashville, said he knew nothing of the issue.

On July 19 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Bush, according to a transcript, was asked:

"Mr. President, music is one of our largest exports the country has. Currently, every country in the world -- except China, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda and the U.S. -- pay a statutory royalty to the performing artists for radio and television airplay. Would your administration consider changing our laws to align it with the rest of the world?

His answer was: "Help. (Laughter.) Maybe you've never had a president say this -- I have, like, no earthly idea what you're talking about. (Laughter and applause.) Sounds like we're keeping interesting company, you know? (Laughter.)

"Look, I'll give you the old classic: Contact my office, will you? (Laughter.) I really don't -- I'm totally out of my lane. I like listening to country music, if that helps. (Laughter.)"

NAB apparently took Bush up on his word Wednesday and will have ICBC Broadcast Holdings president and CEO Charles Warfield testify Tuesday.

The music industry also will be represented as singer Sam Moore of the legendary Sam and Dave duo and singer Judy Collins are scheduled to testify, as is Register of Copyrights Mary Beth Peters.