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Further Disaster Relief Awaiting Action

While a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month would, in part, provide significant additional disaster relief to more individuals and industries, broadcasters and others in need of that help could come up short. Senate leadership is skeptical of the need for additional relief aside from liability protections for businesses and it does not appear negotiations are seriously underway to further advance the effort.

But there is bipartisan, bicameral support for a much smaller bill that tweaks the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) by extending the period for using loans to 24 weeks from eight weeks. It also would let borrowers spend just 60 percent, rather than 75 percent, of their loan proceeds on paying workers and still be eligible for loan forgiveness. That bill could reach the White House in the next several days.

More than 120 members of Congress, including eight from Texas, publicly supported the expansion of the Payroll Protection Program to, in part, allow more stations to participate in the forgivable loan program.

Nearly 200, including 19 from Texas, also supported directives to federal agencies that ad spending on pandemic-related and other matters be directed to local media to help offset the evaporation of commercial ad spending resulting from the nationwide shutdown. These directives did not require legislation.

So it’s clear that Congress understands the impact the pandemic is having on broadcasters, but until leaders can return to a bipartisan approach to the continuing crisis there’s no chance of additional help coming down the pike from DC.

Senate Considers Music Rights
In a sign that Congress is trying to focus on its regular agenda – and that the record labels remain relentless in their push for a Performance Tax on Radio stations – the Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee last week held a staff briefing on the scope of music rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The briefing featured representatives from NAB, the National Religious Broadcasters Music License Committee, the independent music association and SoundExchange.

Curtis LeGeyt, NAB Chief Operating Officer, testified on behalf of local Radio stations, in part highlighting Radio’s continued vitality and relevance to American consumers even after a hundred years – particularly in the midst of the pandemic – and squarely pushing back on proponents of a Performance Tax.

“Some on this panel suggest that despite broadcast radio’s time-tested benefits both to listeners and performers, Congress ought to impose a new performance royalty on local radio,” LeGeyt said.

“Not only is this unjustified as a matter of policy, but it is financially untenable for local radio broadcasters of all sizes.

“Radio invests considerable sums in producing content, employing on-air talent, and updating the equipment needed to run successful stations.

“Radio also pays substantial FCC license fees, and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual copyright royalties to performing rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI and streaming collectives like SoundExchange,” LeGeyt said.

Read Legeyt's Full Comments

TAB continues to educate the Texas Congressional delegation about the disastrous impact a Performance Tax would have on local Radio stations. To date, Texas leads the country in the number of House co-sponsors of HConRes 20, The Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a performance royalty.

The resolution has secured 215 cosponsors – 20 of them Texans – just three shy of a majority which would make it very difficult for the labels to overcome.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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