Senate OKs bill to make radio pay fees
AM and FM stations only pay songwriters, not performersLegislation to make radio stations pay royalties to performers when they broadcast their music won the Senate Judiciary Committee's approval Thursday.
Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV music channels already pay fees to performers and musicians, along with songwriter royalties. AM and FM radio stations just pay songwriters, not performers.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the bill corrects a glaring inequity. "When we listen to music, we are enjoying the intellectual property of two creative artists — the songwriter and the performer," he said.
The bill enjoys star-studded support. Entertainers Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, Herbie Hancock and Patti LaBelle have all made visits to Capitol Hill to lobby for it. But it also has some powerful opposition, the National Broadcasters Association, which argues that performers already benefit because radio stations playing their work drive listeners to buy music and concert tickets.
The Judiciary Committee's approval on a voice vote sends the bill to the full Senate, but lawmakers said they still want to make changes before a vote. A similar bill is pending in the House after winning the approval of its Judiciary Committee in May.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the bill a job killer and said it would hurt small and minority-owned radio stations already struggling in the hard economic times. He said he feared many of them will just switch to all-talk formats rather than pay more royalties.
Leahy said he amended the bill to accommodate smaller broadcasters by allowing them to pay a flat fee annual fee ranging from $100 to $5,000 based on their revenues. Public radio and other noncommercial stations would pay between $100 and $1,000 in new royalties.
Larger commercial stations that make more than $1.25 million would pay a rate set by the federal Copyright Royalty Board.
Broadcasters that make less than $5 million would start paying fees three years after the bill becomes law. Stations that make more would have to start paying the fees a year from enactment.