Consolidation, Performance Fees Debated At Senate Panel
October 24, 2007 at 10:59 AM (PT)
Two of radio's hottest-button issues -- consolidation and a performance rigths royalty -- took center stage at the SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE's "Future of Radio" hearing WEDNESDAY. Parties representing both sides of each issue had a chance to make their points to Senators who most likely have already made up their minds on the issues.
Consolidation Charges And Rebuttals
FREE PRESS Research Director S. DEREK TURNER called on Congress to "send a message to the FCC to stop its rush toward more consolidation." In prepared remarks, TURNER said, "Ownership rules exist for a reason: to increase diversity and localism, which in turn produces more diverse speech, more choice for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities ... Our research conclusively demonstrates that more consolidation means less female and minority ownership. The Commission needs to first adequately study the issue of minority ownership before moving forward with any rule changes. It may be hard to believe, but they’ve never even conducted an accurate count of who owns the nation’s radio outlets. How can the FCC conduct any meaningful analysis regarding the effects of its policies if it can’t conduct a basic count of who owns what?"
Local radio ... is not the reason the recording industry is suffering from declining profits, and local radio should not be used as a bail-out fund
NAB Radio Board Chairman RUSS WITHERS countered that by telling the panel that "broadcasters are not asking for total deregulation. Our message is simple: We must have reasonable rules that reflect the current competitive radio environment ... at least part of the reason that you here in Congress directed the FCC to make those changes (in 1996) was because the fragmented broadcast industry -- particularly for radio -- was in serious trouble. In the early 1990s the FCC reported that more than half of all stations were losing money and almost 300 stations had gone silent. You can't serve the public interest with no service. Since 1996, however, numerous studies have shown that the changes within local broadcast markets, especially among radio stations, have enhanced the diversity of programming offered by local stations. Another study demonstrated that localism is still alive and well despite the rule changes.
"There are more radio stations today in the U.S. than at any time in our history. Despite claims that the radio industry has been swallowed up by a few corporate giants, there are more than 4,490 different owners of the approximately 13,500 full-power stations in this country. According to the FCC, more that 6,498 of those are locally owned."
About Those Royalty Rates....
WITHERS also reiterated the NAB's position that the COPYRIGHT ROYALTY BOARD's Internet streaming rate decision should be vacated because "the cost for radio stations to stream music will drastically increase... (and) the new CRB rates are a barrier to entry for many stations that want to be part of the Internet revolution." And on performance fees, he said, "Local radio ... is not the reason the recording industry is suffering from declining profits, and local radio should not be used as a bail-out fund. Radio broadcasters will fight this tax to preserve a local radio system that remains free, essential and available to all consumers."