Thursday, December 20, 2007

NAB Calls It an "Anti-Performance-Tax Resolution"

Legislators long ago realized that swaying public opinion on a matter is oftentimes accomplished with a name. The perfect example is the so-called "Death Tax." People hate death, and hate taxes even more. The idea of a tax on dying is truly offensive. While not an entirely inaccurate name, it is more appropriately called the "estate tax." However, the word "estate" conjures images of wealth, which is a closer representation of what is described, since it is a levy imposed on those with substantial assets and is designed to prevent the mass accumulation of wealth by way of inheritance.

The National Association of Broadcasters has taken its cue and refers to the newly proposed performance royalty for radio as a "performance tax." Nice try, NAB. (Note that NAB also refers to the FCC's relaxing of consolidation rules as "localism rules," suggesting that somehow allowing further corporate consolidation of media supports localism.)

NAB, along with NPR and other broadcast associations, has formed the Free Radio Alliance, aptly named to conjure warm fuzzy feelings. Its sole purpose is to fight against sound recording performance royalties for terrestrial radio, which it calls a "transfer tax on local communities."

Yesterday, Radio Ink reported the introduction of House Concurrent Resolution 224, in opposition to the performance royalty bill. The clever name employed here? The Local Radio Freedom Act. And we thought stuffy big business types weren't creative. The resolution reads:

Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.
It will come as no surprise that this resolution, trumpeting loyalty to and defense of local radio, was introduced by two Representatives from Texas, home of Clear Channel. No logical gymnastics are required to conclude that Clear Channel might have had some influence in the introduction of this legislation.

Clear Channel's impact on radio is no mystery - it singlehandedly destroyed local radio in the late '90s. This is perhaps why they had to get so creative with both the title of the resolution and its contents. After all, "Congress should not require major corporations who own radio stations all over the country to pay for using the recordings responsible for making them billions of dollars," just doesn't evoke the same warm fuzzies. (You know, on second thought, maybe we should back the Resolution exactly as it reads and not impose a performance royalty on local radio - only big media companies should pay it.)