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In Austin and DC, Radio issues garner support

Texas lawmakers in Austin and DC alike are demonstrating their support for local broadcast radio on measures ranging from music royalties and AM revitalization to state sales tax policy. Their actions reflect the industry’s longstanding community service and listeners’ continued reliance on local radio for music discovery, news and emergency information. In many cases, lawmakers are bucking bureaucratic headwinds or missteps that otherwise could imperil stations’ ability to serve their listeners.

Just last week, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation reinstating a sales tax exemption for radio stations’ digital transmission equipment. The exemption had been in place for eight years until late 2010 when an administrative hearing in the state Comptroller’s office rescinded the policy during a review of a tax dispute. The judge in the case determined the law was not sufficiently clear that the exemption in place for similar equipment used by television stations also extended to radio stations.

Large radio groups and some smaller groups in large markets benefited from the exemption when it was in place.  As smaller radio groups and stations in smaller markets began preparing for their digital transition, they were not able to employ the same exemption, resulting in an uneven playing field.  The measure correcting this administrative ruling, HB 2507, was co-authored by Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and was one of TAB’s top legislative goals for the recently concluded session.

In DC, Congressmen Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, and Gene Green, D-Houston, encouraged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to rethink his decision earlier this year to delay efforts to revitalize the AM band, particularly the proposal approved by his predecessor to open a filing window for AM stations to obtain FM translators.

“AM stations face a variety of technical, regulatory and competitive challenges that could undercut the long-term viability of AM radio service, especially in rural areas where Americans may be underserved by broadband and cable access,” Olson and Green wrote in a June 8 letter to Wheeler.

“The Commission…should promptly advance the AM revitalization proceeding, including the opening of an AM-only window for FM translators, for the benefit of our nation’s AM radio stations and their millions of listeners.”

Olson-Green AM Revitalization Letter

Regarding music royalties, another Texas congressman has signed on as a co-sponsor of H.Con.Res 17, the Local Radio Freedom Act, which expresses Congress’ opposition to the Performance Tax, or performance royalty, advanced by the RIAA.

Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, joins 19 of his Texas colleagues in co-sponsoring the resolution.  Texas continues to lead the nation in Congressional support for the measure which now stands at 194, still short of the 218 needed to reach a majority.  NAB is striving to secure about 250 cosponsors to effectively stymie consideration of a Performance Tax in the current Congress.

TX Congressional Positions on Performance Tax

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

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