March 23, 2009

African American Broadcasters Don't Want to Pay for the Music They Play

While Tom Joyner was on spring break and in "Best of..." mode last week, he was still working hard at a Washington, D.C. briefing at the Rayburn House Office Building, moderated by Washington civil rights lawyer David Honig, who is the executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. Joyner and others like Cathy Hughes, Alfred Liggins of Radio One; Charles Warfield, of ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Inc.; Ron Davenport of American Urban Radio Networks took aim at the pending legislation which broadcasters say would place an unfair burden on them, a "tax," as they put it, that they should not be responsible for, and a charge that could force them into bankruptcy.

But right in the middle of the briefing, Duke Fakir, of the Four Tops, sitting in the audience, STOOD UP and started to sing Reach Out and pay me...

Not really... He said I'm a friend of African-American radio (i.e. we cool y'all can still play my records) but it's about "fair play." (maybe he should have said fair pay) Earlier in the day, Fakir and two other Motown legends, Martha Reeves of Martha & The Vandellas and Mary Wilson of The Supremes, signed a letter to Congress supporting the passage of the Performance Rights Act (H.R. 848).

Fakir is right. I feel for the financial state that Black Radio and radio overall finds itself. It's a tough call because Black radio has never been on an even playing field with other radio properties. However there is no reason why African American radio owners should be exempt from paying a Performance Tax that all other radio stations are expected to pay if the bill passes. After all radio is a business and they should have anticipated that one day they would have to pay a little more for the music they play.

As the letter stated "Every other music platform -- satellite radio, Internet radio and cable radio -- recognizes the value the performer brings to the music they broadcast and compensates artists accordingly. But terrestrial radio does not and will not until a right is granted." Maybe a bail out for radio is next.

Now I wonder if Radio One will be playing less and less Motown...

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