A Majority of House Lawmakers Say Musicians Shouldn’t Get Paid for Radio Plays

Local Radio Freedom Act Now Has Bipartisan Support, But Can It Survive Fierce Opposition?
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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.

6 Responses

  1. Craig Mixon

    I can’t believe I am understanding this right. Is this article saying that these billionaire radio station owners can now take our property (our music) and use it to make money for themselves without paying us anything?

    I would like to propose new legislation which will allow us musicians to enter the homes of all congress members and radio station owners and take whatever we want without paying them anything for it. Isn’t the one equivalent to the other?

  2. Angelito

    A majority of house lawmakers shouldn’t get paid for the time they really are getting anything done (most of the time, that is).

  3. Anonymous

    Drug and alcohol testing for all elected officials.

  4. Dennis Nilsson

    This article is non factual. The radio stations already pays to ASCAP, SESAC, and other performing rights organizations (PROs).

    This article does not mention the history behind why does not radio stations pays to IFPI, that is the record companies, not the artists.

    To make a long story short: At the end of 1930’s ASCAP took a very hard stance against the radio stations.

    That resulted that the radio stations formed a new copyright organization, called BMI. Artists involved in ASCAP wasn’t got played on the radiostations, for the radiostations had’t the income to pay ASCAP’s expensive copyright.

    After several years of loosing members to BMI, ASCAP had to change their mind.

    BMI had reasonable ciopyright charges, so most artist changed membership to BMI, and therefore got played and promoted at the radiostations. A radio play resulted in higher record sales.

    A win-win situation for the BMI artist and the radio station.

    • Rick

      You make good points, but the bad grammar ruins everything you”re trying to convey.

    • Al Jolson

      But, this is about paying for use of the sound recording, not the copyright. The basic argument is that the label could not break and artist without radio, so why should radio pay for making gazillions for labels?