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FCC Probes Corporate Radio’s Misdeeds September 12, 2009

Posted by David W. King in Uncategorized.
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The Federal Communications Commission has received comments on a petition filed by the musicFIRST Coalition.

The petition details how radio stations across the country refuse to air musicFIRST ads, threaten artists who support the effort to create a fair performance right on radio and continue to run misleading ads produced by the National Association of Broadcasters – all in an effort to further their own private commercial interests at the expense of their public interest obligations.

Comments to be filed by the Music Managers Forum, a member of musicFIRST, include an e-mail sent by college radio station to WICB in Ithaca, New York, to Aimee Mann’s online message board. “The e-mail is clear,” said Jennifer Bendall, executive director of the musicFIRST Coalition. “WICB dropped Aimee Mann because she supports the effort to create a fair performance right on radio.”

“Like other radio stations, WICB dropped Aimee Mann and ‘any other musicFIRST supporters.’ It is a sad day when a licensed radio station affiliated with a major college punishes artists for exercising their First Amendment Rights.”

Under the provisions of the Performance Rights Act, college and other non-commercial radio stations will pay just $500 or $1,000 a year to clear the performance rights for all the music they use.

“Broadcasters enjoy broad First Amendment rights,” Bendall said, “but they can’t punish artists for exercising their First Amendment rights, too. It’s about radio’s bottom line.”

Radio stations must ensure that their private interests, including their private financial interests, do not interfere with their obligation to serve the public. According to the musicFIRST filing, one major radio group dropped a top selling artist’s record after he spoke in support of performance rights legislation. The program director of a Florida radio station declined to add an artist’s recordings to his station’s playlist because the artist is listed as a member of the musicFIRST Coalition. musicFIRST is asking the FCC find that the stations have violated their public interest obligations and consider the broadcasters’ malfeasance in connection with their license renewal.

“We respect a broadcaster’s right to oppose the Performance Rights Act. AM and FM music radio stations earn billions in advertising revenue every year without compensating the artists and musicians who bring music to life and listeners ears to the radio dial. Every other radio platform – internet radio, satellite radio and cable TV music channels – pay a fair performance royalty. And AM and FM music radio stations that stream their over-the-air signal online pay a fair performance royalty for the online program.”

Artists and musicians also enjoy a radio performance right in almost every other country in the world. Countries without a radio performance right include China, Iran, North Korea, Rwanda and the U.S.