Musician Groups Applying The Royalty Pressure On Radio
If you think last week’s Music Modernization Act signing put to rest the issue of radio not paying performance royalties on the music it plays, you may want to think again. A pair of trade groups representing musicians are using and end-around tactic to pressure the FCC into royalty reform. Their latest move is to lobby the FCC against further deregulation of the radio industry until the broadcasters start paying performance royalties.
For a little background, since the 1990s TV and radio groups have had an ownership cap which limited the number of stations they could operate in a given market. The basis for this regulation has to do with an arcane theory that no single broadcaster should dominate the airwaves and thereby control what we see and hear. (Yes, in today’s digital age this argument seems pretty weak.) The current ownership cap is eight total broadcast licenses in a single market, with one TV and seven radio stations max. Over the years broadcasters have pushed to get this cap dropped by claiming that it makes them less competitive against other media types.
Now the musician groups are trying to link deregulation to royalty reform – so if you’re going to take the ownership handcuffs off the broadcasters at least make them start paying their fair share of royalties. It’s a novel strategy to be sure, but it’s not clear how much traction this argument will get. What is clear is that the musicians have no plans of dropping the radio royalty fight any time soon.