Congress tells PRA critics to negotiate: stakeholder talks begin today on Capitol Hill

Congress tells PRA critics to negotiate: stakeholder talks begin today on Capitol Hill

Three months ago, when Senator Diane Feinstein and Chairman Pat Leahy warned opponents of the PRA “This is going to be legislation. It will move,” they meant it. Now Congress wants key stakeholders to sit down and negotiate what that forward-moving bill will look like. They’re even providing the table.

Since sending that shot across broadcasters’ bow, the Senate Judiciary passed the legislation out of committee, giving artists and copyright holders their best shot yet at claiming royalties for the use of their work in broadcast radio.

Now, the Chairmen of both House and Senate Judiciary Committees are following through on the rest of Leahy’s statement from August 4, when he told NAB Joint Board chair Steve Newberry, “I’d rather have legislation that reflects your interests as well as their interests but that’s only going to happen if you stand there at the table.”

In a letter, the Chairmen asked musicFIRST Coalition executive director Jennifer Bendall; National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith; and the National Association of Broadcasters chairman of joint radio and television board Steve Newberry to “enter into negotiations before this legislation is considered on the floor of either House. The negotiated resolution will be considered by Congress as it takes up passage of this Act.” Negotiations will take place in a Hill conference room, beginning today and ending December 1 – hopefully in a workable compromise.

While proponents of the bill have frequently asked for a forum to negotiate royalty rates to compensate artists, broadcasters and other critics have so far been able to stonewall any progress by simply refusing to consider the proposition. In fact, then-head of the National Broadcasters Association David Rehr famously said “I’d rather slit my throat than negotiate,” a workable royalty schedule with the performers who made him his millions.

The message Leahy gave in August should be stronger than ever: it’s time to sit down and talk, folks. Now that the cause for civil rights and fair compensation for artists is moving forward, NAB and its allies must join the conversation. It’s time to face the music.