Beating the Fee


When we last looked at the Performance Rights Act, the recording industry's effort to require each radio station to pay performers when it plays their songs, the bill had passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 21 to 9. I'm happy to report that 220 members of the U.S. House—a majority—have now co-sponsored an opposing measure, the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes "any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge."

I was pessimistic about this battle: When Democrats outnumber Republicans, I generally expect the RIAA to beat the NAB. But those aren't the only players this time. Traditionally Democratic civil rights groups have lobbied heavily against the bill, pointing out the ways new fees could cripple small, minority-owned stations. Between their efforts and the NAB's, the song tax just might lose.