Pols get an earful at radio royalty hearing

Nancy Sinatra: 'It's a simple need for fairness'

WASHINGTON -- It was hard to tell whether Wednesday's examination of a proposal setting up a royalty for songs aired on traditional radio was a congressional hearing or a music festival as performers ranging from R&B group Dru Hill to Latino torch singer Adassa turned the House Judiciary Committee room into a stage.

The hearing on the issue was postponed for hours as lawmakers cast floor votes on other issues, but it managed to capture the committee's imagination as performers pushed the lawmakers to support the Performance Rights Act.

Nancy Sinatra told the House copyright subcommittee that the legislation would undo a wrong that was long supported by her father, Frank Sinatra.

"It's not about me, and it's not about my dad," she said. "It's a simple need for fairness."

While the support of Sinatra and other musicians is important, the legislation got an unexpected boost from the White House as the Commerce Department gave its support for the legislation.

Broadcasters, however, oppose the legislation contending that the promotional authority of radio broadcasts more than compensates performers.

Commonwealth Broadcasting president and CEO Steven Newberry told lawmakers that the promotional value airplay gives performers what amounts to $1.4 billion a year.

"It is not broken and not in need of fixing," he said of the system.