July 11, 2009

Battle over radio royalties heats up

Hostilities have escalated in a long-running battle over whether U.S. radio stations should pay royalties to recording artists, observers say.

A proposed law has been passed by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that would require performers -- joining songwriters, who currently receive such royalties -- be paid each time a radio station plays their recordings. Performers back the law, but it is opposed by broadcasters, especially minorities and those in small markets, who say they couldn't survive under the plan, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Saturday.

One of the greatest resources of America is our intellectual property rights, Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a backer of the Performance Rights Act, told the newspaper. Our songwriters and performers are being ripped off every day.

But opponents, such as Radio One, the largest black radio company in the country, say the bill would murder black radio and has targeted one of its sponsors, Rep. John Conyers, who is black, for special scorn.

Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters says it is the record companies who have cheated performers over the years, and broadcasters shouldn't be punished for the labels' lining their pockets, The Tennessean reported.