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Performance Rights Act Headed to House

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The House Judiciary Committee voted 21-9 on Wednesday (May 13) to send the Performance Rights Act to the full House for a vote. After a contentious three-hour hearing in which three amendments to the bill were offered, only one of the amendments--which reduced the fees to small broadcasters--was embraced.
 
In a surprise move welcomed by broadcasters, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) showed her support for broadcasters and against H.R. 848. She acknowledged that she had been heavily lobbied by broadcasters as recently as Tuesday night (May 12), receiving phone calls from Salem Christian talk KKLA/Los Angeles, among other stations. She was concerned about the financial impact on broadcasters in general and minority broadcasters in particular. Waters was in favor of one amendment offered by fellow Californian Daniel Lungren (R) that sought to delay voting on the Act by six months while a study on the economic impact of the measure was conducted. That proposal, along with another by Ted Poe (R-Texas), was shot down by a majority vote against them by the committee.
 
Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), who last year backed the bill for performance royalties, said he moved toward broadcasters this time around, concerned about their financial well-being.
 
"I have sweethearts on both sides--broadcasters I love and performers I love," Coble said, explaining how tough a decision this bill is for him. The veteran legislator struck a human chord with many on the panel who are struggling with making a choice they'd rather not be forced to make.
 
Even committee chairman John Conyers said he understood what it meant to be pulled by both sides. He added that Coble "expresses the sentiments of many of us."
 
"We were pleasantly surprised by the considerable bipartisan opposition to a performance tax, even in a committee where support for the record labels is strongest," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "The NAB applauds these nine members for standing with America's hometown radio stations, their 235 million weekly listeners and the yet-to-break artists who will lose their No. 1 promotional platform if this bill is enacted."
 
Waters found herself in an odd position, going against the Democratic tide, a move that both surprised and tickled NAB lobbyists in the room because she is not a signer to their Local Radio Freedom Act resolution, which has 192 House signatures and aims to stop the royalty legislation.
 
Waters, who represents the western portion of Los Angeles, including the Inglewood and Hawthorne sections of town, said, "I think we can come up with a solution that does not harm minority broadcasters or religious broadcasters." She said broadcasters in her district complained that they already pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to broadcast recorded music, and she was against increasing their burden. She encouraged the panel to go back and look at the proposed measure and check its impact on already-struggling broadcasters.
 

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