May 12, 2009

Al Sharpton is Hot with Congressman Friend

From R&R The Rev. Al Sharpton has let a longtime friend and advocate in the U.S. Congress know that legislation he's backing will hurt minority broadcasters via his daily Radio One talk show. Sharpton on Monday began encouraging his audience to let Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, know that the pending Performance Rights Act, a bill Conyers has fought hard for decades and which recently has picked up significant congressional support, would have a "devastating" impact on mom-and-pop stations, including minority-owned and operated outlets, according to David Honig, the executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

The pending House legislation, H.R. 848, and its companion bill in the Senate, S.379, would require broadcasters to pay artists and performers a fee for broadcasting their recorded works. The smallest of broadcasters, those generating advertising revenues of $1.25 million or less, would pay only $5,000 a year.

But Conyers, who has recently received a barrage of letters from Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-Push Coalition, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and MMTC and has held several meetings with Honig and others representing minority broadcasters, is now expected to offer an amendment to the bill that would cut the rate to only $500 a year. The bill is tentatively set for markup in the House on Wednesday (May 13). All of them have asked Conyers to conduct a study on the impact the bill will have on minority broadcasters, including, perhaps, requesting a study by the Government Accountability Office. While Conyers hasn't promised anything, acknowledges Honig, they have left their meetings believing that more research on the subject would be conducted.

$500 a year seems like a small amount for the smallest of broadcasters, but I believe the point here is this: larger minority broadcasters would have to pay more and once you get someeting like this to become law, you'll never get rid of it. ...and who knows how much a peformance royalty rate will increase in the future which may mean bankruptcy for many Black and Hispanic broadcasters.
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