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US House of Representatives

Local Radio Freedom Act Reaches Majority in the House

The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), the concurrent resolution expressing a commitment from Congress not to levy a new performance tax on broadcasters, has officially reached a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives.

H.Con.Res.33, “Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act,” is a non-binding resolution and cannot become law, but the majority benchmark sends a clear signal in Congress that most voting House members would not support a move to create a new performance royalty. Representatives of the recording industry have vowed to keep fighting for the American Music Fairness Act (H.R.4130), calling the LRFA victory “purely symbolic.”

The American Music Fairness Act (AMFA), supported by the musicFIRST coalition of major record labels and partner organizations, would compel radio stations to pay royalties on recorded music similar to those paid by streaming services. With key support for the bill from Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), it remains possible that the House Judiciary Committee will advance H.R.4130 out of the committee. A long-anticipated Senate companion bill has not yet materialized as of this writing.

The LRFA, introduced to the 117th Congress on May 4, 2021, declares that “Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over the air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.”

As of this writing, the LRFA has 222 co-sponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate. Recent cosponsors of the LRFA in the House include Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-AL-4), Shontel Brown (D-OH-11), Troy Carter (D-LA-2), Andrew Clyde (R-GA-9), Byron Donalds (R-FL-19), Brad Finstad (R-MN-1), Mike Flood (R-NE-1), Mayra Flores (R-TX-34), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL-26), Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), Jody Hice (R-GA-10), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-8), Burgess Owens (R-UT-4), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI-DL), Matt Rosendale (R-MT-AL), John Rutherford (R-FL-4), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM-1) and Daniel Webster (R-FL-11). Adding their support for a companion resolution in the Senate are Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jim Risch (R-ID, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Radio stations are more than the programming listeners hear each day: they are businesses with payroll, rent, taxes, licensing fees, and more. Local radio already shoulders many regulatory obligations that do not apply to other platforms, such as political ad reporting requirements, ownership restrictions, public service obligations, and more. Furthermore, broadcasters (including many NRB members) who include music in their programming day already pay music licensing fees and provide free promotion, worth billions in music sales, to record labels and artists. Any new performance royalty that must be absorbed by the station could mean delayed equipment upgrades, format flips, staff reductions, less music promotion, or reduced community service activities, and may in some cases be financially devastating.

In urging lawmakers to support the LRFA, industry groups appealed to Congress to stay out of the relationship between broadcasters and performing artists. “Without the overhang of a statutory license and government-imposed fees, a number of broadcasters and record labels have negotiated dozens of private agreements,” the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) explains. “That is how the free market is supposed to work.”

“America’s radio broadcasters are deeply thankful to the nearly 250 bipartisan House and Senate cosponsors of the Local Radio Freedom Act,” said NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt in a press release celebrating the win for broadcasters. “Local radio stations’ irreplaceable service to their communities and our decades-long relationship with recording artists would be greatly damaged by a burdensome performance royalty.”

LRFA advocacy represented a key area of collaboration between the NRB and industry colleagues. As part of an advocacy push led by the NAB, NRB held meetings with lawmakers, delivered numerous letters to Congress, provided advocacy updates to members, and mobilized its Radio Committee to help advocate for the LRFA on their stations and to their representatives.

NRB President & CEO Troy A. Miller and Noelle Garnier, NRB’s director of public policy and communications, met with numerous Congressional offices in February to discuss the advantages of cosponsoring H.Con.Res.33 and the resolution’s importance to broadcasters. In meetings, Miller and Garnier highlighted the immense promotional value local radio provides to the music industry, the public service activities carried out by NRB members, the existing financial and regulatory burdens on broadcasters, the pitfalls of the AMFA, and more.

“The complexities of music licensing questions are not resolved by a flat radio royalty, a handout from Congress to the major record labels that already dominate the market, or a bigger role for the government,” said Miller. “We’re very appreciative that members of Congress are attentive to this issue and the majority have chosen to stand with local radio.”

“The musicFirst coalition advancing the AMFA has made no secret of its unveiled contempt for broadcasters,” added Garnier. “So far, it looks like hostility to a hardworking American industry plus bombarding Congress with celebrity star power just doesn’t get the job done.”

NRB applauds these 222 House and 28 Senate lawmakers for standing with local radio, broadcasters, and millions of listeners nationwide.

While the LRFA has now crossed the majority threshold, additional support will help strengthen and clarify the signal against performance royalties. See if your representative has cosponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act here. For advocacy materials or questions about lawmaker engagement on the Local Radio Freedom Act, contact Noelle Garnier at ngarnier@nrb.org.

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