Broadcasters are fighting a bill which could force some radio stations off the air.

Michelle Vetterkind, President of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, says record labels are struggling to stay afloat in this economy because they have failed to adapt their business plan to the digital age. Instead, they’re trying to squeeze more money from broadcasters by charging them a music performance fee.

“The recording industry is lobbying Congress to impose a performance fee or what broadcasters would consider a performance tax that would require our radio local stations to pay the big internationally owned record labels and performers for the music that radio stations currently air for free.”

Vetterkind says if this legislation were to become law, stations wouldn’t be able to afford to play music; they’d have to lay off some folks, switch formats or close-up shop altogether.

She says the measure is a potential financial disaster for radio stations and it could stifle new artists who rely on air play to get their music noticed.

“For more than 80 years the radio and the recording industries have had a symbiotic relationship and record labels and performers have prospered from the free air play by radio local radio performers.”

Stations already pay for the music they play in the form of royalties to performance rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Three of the four biggest record labels are foreign-owned, meaning the money would be taken away from local communities and sent out of the country.

The bill (H.R.848) passed through a House committee last spring and is waiting for a vote in the full House. A similar bill (S.379) is making its way through the Senate. Democrat Russ Feingold voted to pass that version out of committee, but Senator Herb Kohl voted against it.

NOTE: The record labels have been trying for years to get this moving through Congress. Vetterkind says labels are working more aggressively to get this passed, and they have a lot of star power to help them get it done. The WBA is trying to get the word out. In two weeks a delegation of 40 broadcasters will go to DC to talk with members of Congress.

Jackie Johnson report 1:49


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