WASHINGTON, D.C. – NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt testified today before the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing on imposing a performance royalty on local radio stations for music airplay.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good morning, Chairman Nadler, Congressman Chabot, and members and staff of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Curtis LeGeyt and I am proud to testify today on behalf of the NAB’s more than 5,200 free, local, over-the-air radio stations that serve your communities every day.
Broadcast radio recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary and our 239 million weekly listeners demonstrate that our unique appeal remains as strong today as ever. The reason is simple – we are always on, we are local, and we are completely free to all listeners without expensive subscription or data charges. In spite of decades of technological advancement, no other platform combines these qualities. This enduring value has never been more apparent than in the current pandemic where local radio is fulfilling its mission of keeping listeners connected, safe and entertained in the face of its own significant challenges.
Mr. Chairman, four years ago I sat with you and several of your Judiciary colleagues – Democrat and Republican – in this Committee’s library. At that time, in the aftermath of our work together in support of the Music Modernization Act, you made a straightforward request of the broadcast and music industries, all of whom were represented in that room. You asked us to work together to develop a proposal on this terrestrial performance royalty issue that could represent a win-win for music creators and local broadcast listeners.
In response, NAB worked for more than 18 months and offered numerous proposals to our industry partners behind closed doors that aimed to achieve that goal. Our approach was tethered in the belief that both artists and listeners could benefit from a change in law that didn’t simply create a new burdensome royalty for broadcast stations, but instead enabled broadcasters to innovate, incentivized them to play more music, and benefited artists by compensating them for that increased airplay whether it took place over-the-air or through a stream. When our concepts were rebuffed, we came back to the table with new ideas time and time again.
Unfortunately, the music industry was unwilling to do its part in these negotiations. Our proposals were legitimate, made in good faith, and NAB was committed to seeing whether common ground might be possible. But beyond lip service, at no point were we even met with a formal counteroffer from the music industry.
That was disappointing to me and the broadcast industry at the time, and as a result, we find ourselves in this hearing room today debating a performance fee proposal that is strikingly similar to its predecessors. One whose introduction the music industry advocated in spite of knowing that it does not strike the balance that you and your colleagues requested of us during that meeting four years ago.
At a moment when local stations are doing their best work, when - in the face of a global pandemic – we are connecting communities rather than dividing them, informing them rather than misleading them, and providing our critical service free to all listeners when many Americans are struggling financially, the American Music Fairness Act would impose a new royalty on local radio that is financially untenable for broadcasters of all sizes and unjustified as a matter of policy. Broadcasters thank Representatives Kathy Castor, Steve Womack, and the 234 House and Senate cosponsors of the Local Radio Freedom Act, which recognizes our unique value and opposes any new performance fee on broadcast radio.
I want to be clear, NAB remains committed to discussions that would further our partnership with the music industry and enhance our unique value to artists without diminishing our ability to serve your communities. And make no mistake, artists and their labels recognize this value in the real world – even if not in their Washington, D.C. advocacy – through countless award show acceptance speeches, social media posts, and direct station outreach seeking airplay. We are proud of that partnership, but the American Music Fairness Act would undermine it.
Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I look forward to answering your questions.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.