The MusicFIRST coalition today urged Congress to pass a measure that would require AM and FM radio stations to pay performers a fee for playing their music on air, saying the music industry groups will use all of their power to advance the bill during a lame-duck session to be held in mid-November.
"The MusicFIRST coalition is growing impatient," said Jennifer Bendall, executive director of the coalition, which represents recording artists, music businesses and performance rights advocates. "Congressional leaders have said they want this issue resolved this year and if broadcasters can't agree among themselves then we expect Congress to act."
Performance rights legislation has been approved by the House and Senate Judiciary committees, but has stalled with resistance from a host of lawmakers and the National Association of Broadcasters.
For many years, the NAB has flatly refused to support performance rights' legislation, but for the first time, the broadcasters have engaged in talks with the entertainment industry at the behest of lawmakers calling on the groups to reach a compromise.
"The broadcasters have never been willing before to even talk to us," said Hal Ponder, director of government relations at the American Federation of Musicians. "Things are changing and we think we have good momentum."
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers "has a very personal passion in seeing performance rights passed this session," said Benjamin Staub, a Judiciary Committee staffer. Conyers is the lead sponsor of the House legislation.
But chances for enactment during the 111th Congress remain slim.
In exchange for their support for the bill, the NAB has asked for the inclusion of a controversial provision that would require all mobile devices in the United States to include FM radio chips. The wireless industry group CTIA and some technology groups have come out in fierce opposition to that proposal.
"It is simply wrong for two entrenched industries to resolve their differences by agreeing to burden a third industry - which has no relationship to or other interest in the performance royalty dispute -- with a costly, ill-considered, and unnecessary new mandate," according to a letter sent to Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy in August from CTIA, the Consumer Electronics Association and other groups.
Until there is resolution over the FM radio chip issue, and a few other matters, there is no agreement, said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, who added that broadcasters are continuing to work toward a solution.
When asked if he believes NAB has been making a genuine effort to negotiate with the music industry, Staub said, "I think the broadcasters have been earnest in their attempts to move forward. We are still waiting for the product of those negotiations."