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Performance Tax proposal in the offing, Radio poised for fight

Radio stations’ effort to defeat a Performance Tax in the new session of Congress kicked off last week as 90 members of the House signed on to the Local Radio Freedom Act which opposes such a measure.

Co-authored by Texas Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and Gene Green, D-Houston, H. Con. Res. 17 is a non-binding resolution that expressly opposes efforts by the international record labels to force local radio stations to pay a performance royalty, in addition to the royalty payments already made to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

At 90, the number of co-sponsors at the initial filing was a record for this effort, though broadcasters have far to go to reach the majority threshold of 218. TAB and other state broadcast associations are working closely with the NAB to secure far more than the majority in order to underscore the depth of opposition in Congress.

The effort is especially important this session as supporters of a Performance Tax are expected to soon file legislation affirmatively assessing such a royalty on radio broadcasters, though the details of the language are not yet known.

Texas traditionally has had more co-sponsors for this effort than any other state. In addition to Conaway and Green, the following lawmakers already have signed on:

  • Joe Barton, R-Ennis
  • Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi
  • Bill Flores, R-Waco
  • Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth
  • Ruben Hinojosa, D-Edinburg
  • Will Hurd, R-San Antonio
  • Kenny Marchant, R-Irving
  • Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock
  • Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso
  • Ted Poe, R-Humble
  • Pete Sessions, R-Dallas
  • Marc Veasey, D-Dallas

TAB is now focusing on the Texas congressmen who co-sponsored the measure last year but haven’t yet signed on for the renewed effort. Individual broadcasters will be asked to weigh in with their lawmakers in the coming days.

Issue Overview/Talking Points

Hat tip from the House floor

In addition to joining the first wave of co-sponsors for H. Con. Res. 17, Reps. Ted Poe, R-Humble, and Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, took to the House floor Feb. 25 to praise local broadcasters for the breadth of their service to local communities.

“What people were listening to in the car was local radio stations that were on the air broadcasting, not just the weather, but the traffic – that information was so vital,” Poe said in recounting the evacuation of Houston as Hurricane Ike approached. “The local folks, we certainly couldn’t exist without them.”

Farenthold shared his insight as a teenaged broadcaster from his perch now as a policymaker. Calling radio the “heartbeat of the community,” the Congressman noted that Congressional actions could easily decimate an invaluable community asset.

“We have got to be careful here in Washington,” he urged. “We have got lots of stuff on our agenda here that could potentially adversely affect broadcasters.”

The comments were made the evening of Feb. 25, coinciding with NAB’s State Leadership Conference which drew 600 broadcasters to DC.

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

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