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MusicFIRST Proposes Flat Royalties For Some Broadcasters

WASHINGTON -- November 6, 2007: Radio Ink has obtained a document being circulated on Capitol Hill by the MusicFIRST Coalition proposing flat performance-royalty rates for "small commercial radio stations," noncommercial stations, and college stations.

The MusicFIRST Coalition - -- whose members include the RIAA, SoundExchange, the American Federation of Musicians, the Recording Academy, and the Recording Artists Coalition -- was formed in June to lobby for a performance royalty from broadcast radio and television.

According to the document obtained by Radio Ink, the coalition is proposing changes to the law that would do away with broadcasters' royalties exemption and have small commercial stations -- "small" is not defined -- pay a flat royalty rate of $5,000 per year, while noncoms and college stations pay $1,000 a year.

According to the proposal, stations that "make only incidental uses of music," such as Talk stations, would not pay at all for music. Stations that use some music but are not primarily music formats would be offered a "per program license option so that they pay only for the music they use."

Additionally, "religious services that are broadcast on radio would be completely exempt." The proposal refers only to "services," not to religious broadcasters or formats.

The document also says that "proposed changes to existing law" would give broadcasters "the advantage of statutory licensing" rather than forcing broadcasters that had lost their royalties exemption to negotiate the right to play music with each copyright owner.

Asked for comment, MusicFIRST spokesman Tod Donhauser provided a statement to Radio Ink saying, "This document expresses the musicFIRST (Fairness in Radio Starting Today) Coalition's fair and balanced approach to a performance right on radio. We are advocating for a long-overdue performance royalty that would be fair to both performers and broadcasters, therefore we are recommending an accommodation be made for small broadcasters, college stations, nonprofits, and religious programming. AM and FM radio should compensate artists for their hard work, talent, and dedication, and not least of all, for the content that drives their listeners and advertising revenue."

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) said in September that he planned to introduce legislation that would impose a performance royalty on broadcasters, and MusicFIRST and the RIAA on one side and the NAB on the other have been dueling over the matter in the press and on Capitol Hill.

In the most recent round, MusicFIRST on Monday took exception to NAB President/CEO David Rehr's practice of referring to a performance right as a "tax on local radio" and sent Rehr a dictionary defining the word tax as "a contribution for the support of a government."


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