A bipartisan majority within the House of Representatives has voiced support for the Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), which would prevent Congress from imposing “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” upon terrestrial radio stations if signed into law.
We first reported on the Local Radio Freedom Act in 2013, when the concise legislation garnered the backing of 139 representatives and 11 senators. Seven years (and much lobbying from the multibillion-dollar broadcasting industry) later, the bill has officially surpassed the 218-vote simple majority needed to pass through the House, with 223 Republican and Democratic lawmakers having expressed their intention to vote for the proposal.
The latter figure reflects a nearly 100-vote gain in about 18 months, as just 124 members of congress disclosed their approval of the legislation in February 2019. (Four years before that, however, 200 members of Congress rallied behind the bill.)
The Senate is apparently less enthusiastic about the Local Radio Freedom Act. Presently, only 27 senators have come out in favor of the legislation at the time of this writing.
And for additional background, it bears mentioning that U.S.-based terrestrial radio stations, like those of most nations around the globe, do in fact pay royalties for the use of underlying compositions, including to ASCAP, SESAC, and other performing rights organizations (PROs). Unlike radio stations in all but a handful of countries, though, stateside terrestrial radio stations don’t pay for the use of songs’ actual recordings.
musicFIRST, an artist-advocacy organization and longtime opponent of the Local Radio Freedom Act, commented on the House’s support milestone in a statement. “Rather than paying music creators for their work,” the message reads in part, “as streaming services and broadcasters overseas do, the NAB [National Association of Broadcasters] has spent more than $15 million on lobbyists to get big radio’s interests heard on Capitol Hill.
“That’s more than twice the amount that small US broadcasters would have to pay in royalties under the small business licensing caps in the bipartisan Ask Musicians For Music Act,” musicFIRST’s comment continues.
We’ve also covered the Ask Musicians for Music Act (roughly abbreviated to “AM/FM”), which, like the LRFA, was introduced by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The bill states that “the radio station shall obtain the express authority of the copyright owner of that sound recording” before playing it.
Owing to House support for the Local Radio Freedom Act and AM/FM’s being stuck in committee, it appears unlikely that the latter will benefit from any significant backing in the near future. However, given that all 435 House seats are up for election in November, the tide may turn against the Local Radio Freedom Act once again, depending upon the votes’ results.