Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Radio Performance Tax - It's not just me

Recently I weighed in on the controversial "performance tax" that commercial (and some non-commercial) broadcasters have been nattering on about.

To recap, record labels want broadcasters to pay a fee for the music they use. Stations already pay such as fee to the writers (publishers) of the music, but now labels want money for the performers, also.

My position is this: this fight was lost a long time ago -- and broadcasters have no one to blame but themselves. And apparently, I'm not alone.

Media professional Ken Dardis recently shared his view of the matter in an Audio Graphics blog post, "Radio Performance: A Fee or A Tax?"

[in] 1998, I was calling for the radio industry to become involved in the Copyright Royalty Board's excessive rates against internet radio. That cry was a forewarning; my chant was that CRB was going to eventually catch up to the radio industry.

The radio industry, not having acted when those first and subsequent calls were made in 2002, 2005 and 2008, put itself in the bull's-eye. Only the blind could not see that the record labels were ultimately positioning this as a "parity" fight. Cable access, then satellite radio, with internet radio and downloading were set up by the record labels and conquered one by one. Radio industry leaders sat silent as the dominoes fell. Parity is the reason that the radio industry should now be made to pay.

Radio hoped that those other media outlets be crushed by crippling performance fees and either be put out of business or so overburdened financially that they could no longer compete with terrestrial broadcasting.

The outlets weren't completely crushed, and audiences have voted with their ears. And now the finger's pointing at the last -- and largest -- a target of the record labels' onslaught.

But let's be clear. It's not a tax. It won't be administered by the government.

It will be a royalty fee paid by commercial businesses (radio stations) for the use of other commercial business' property (labels' recordings) to attract customers (advertisers impressed with audience numbers).

I'm not rooting for either side in this, but I'm with Ken - I've got no sympathy for the companies ensnared in the trap they hoped would catch others.

- Ralph

Day 140 of the WJMA Podwatch. (And yes, WJMA's calling it a tax, too.)

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