TV Broadcasters Descend on Capitol Hill

More than 400 radio and TV broadcasters descend on Capitol Hill Tuesday (March 2) to discuss regulatory and legislative issues facing the broadcasting business. Among several issues on the agenda, two will take center state at the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference: The Performance Tax on radio music airplay; and proposals circulating at the Federal Communications Commission to reclaim broadcast TV spectrum for mobile broadband.

A number of legislators will address the broadcasters including House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.); House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-Mich.); and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Local broadcast representatives will also meet with their lawmakers in a series of meetings on Wednesday (March 3).

Radio broadcasters have so far managed to fend off The Performance Rights Act, which would levy a new fee on radio stations for every song aired on the radio, turning over half of the proceeds to record labels. More than 256 House lawmakers and 27 U.S. Senators have signed a resolution opposing any performance tax.

Not even a year after broadcasters invested $10-15 billion to make the transition to digital TV, the FCC has proposed the possibility of taking some of it back, alarming TV execs. In a recent proposal, the FCC suggested broadcasters relinquish a portion of the spectrum in exchange for a share of the proceeds from an auction.

Stations are just now beginning to monetize their new spectrum, which allows the broadcast of multiple channels, and is paving the way for the roll out of mobile DTV. Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have already expressed concern over the proposals.