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LRFA: The Champion of Deception

07 March 2019

We’ll say it straight — every aspect of Big Radio’s latest campaign to maintain its profit margins is deceptive.

The headline from the National Association of Broadcasters’ (NAB) call to action states “Encourage Congress to support local radio!” advocating for the Local Radio Freedom Act. However, at its core, both the call to action and the resolution (that’s right LRFA is a resolution, not a piece of legislation) are not as they appear. As they do year after year, NAB will spend millions, wasting resources and time, just for this motion to (rightly) not become law.  We’ll give them that – NAB is persistent in its fight to avoid giving just compensation to music creators.

Let’s discuss all the reasons why The Local Radio Freedom Act is not what it seems – and the real motives behind the National Association of Broadcasters lobbying for it so aggressively.

First, the name of the resolution, “The Local Radio Freedom Act,” is disingenuous. While the name proclaims protection of local radio stations, the National Association of Broadcasters is actually doing the bidding of Big Radio corporations in this resolution. Across the industry, ten radio corporations own hundreds of stations in the U.S. These ten corporations are responsible for half of the revenue generated by the $17 billion radio industry. The usurpation of local radio stations means a drowning out of local voices. Media conglomerates mean fewer choices for music across the country. Never mind that the NAB is actively seeking to further consolidate the industry. Big Radio means local and indie musicians lack access to the airwaves, and music fans don’t benefit from diverse voices. If local radio will ever truly be “free,” it needs to be protected from large media conglomerates that deny them a healthy marketplace or the diversity of music that draws people to radio in the first place. Which leads us to our next point.

Radio has been struggling for years to remain innovative in the streaming era, where consumer choice is thriving. Even the images NAB uses in its marketing – images of young women listening to music in their car – are misleading. Data tells us those young women are probably not listening to the radio. With the meteoric rise of smart speakers and the proliferation of streaming services, millennials just aren’t tuning into AM/FM radio anymore. And with media conglomerates eliminating the prospect of discovering new music on the radio, especially the local ones, do we blame them? Think about it – when’s the last time you discovered new music on the radio?Usually, these songs have been streamed for weeks, maybe even months, before they actually hit the airways. There isn’t the same promotional value for airplay of songs on the radio as there was before the digital age. Still, the NAB uses the tired excuse that the LRFA recognizes the “promotional value” of music aired on “free, local radio stations.” For this promotion to exist, valuable audiences actually need to be listening to the music. They’re not.

So why is the National Association of Broadcasters touting this resolution so aggressively if it actually doesn’t protect local radio or promote the value of music? It’s quite simple – Big Radio doesn’t want to pay music creators for airplay of their work.

NAB calls paying creators for their recordings a “tax” on radio. They have the gall to use this argument even though every other musical platform pays performers for their sound recordings. Satellite radio, internet streaming services and cable all pay. Fair pay for one’s work is at the core of our American values. Yet, Big Radio wants to maintain its unfair advantage using the argument that paying artists for the work that earns radio its revenue is a tax and is unfair to radio stations.

We hope Congress and music fans will not be duped – LRFA is not what it seems. In actuality, the Local Radio Freedom Act should be named the Big Radio Protection Act.

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