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Exposed: How the NAB Fools Its Own Members

09 February 2016

Listening to the NAB’s very first podcast was an introduction to an alternative universe. It’s all about fake legislation they have been trumpeting for years: LRFA. 

The Local Radio Freedom act is a non-binding resolution that outlines their goal, “…Congress should not impose any new performance tax” on a radio station.  They want to stop Congress from updating the copyright laws to require AM/FM radio to pay the same market value royalties for music that Internet radio pays. 

So in this inaugural podcast Gordon Smith, the NAB’s chief lobbyist, and Curtis LeGeyt, another NAB lobbyist, trumpet what they claim as a victory of reaching 218 cosponsors on LRFA.  Since 218 is more than half of the membership of the House of Representatives, they argue this number of cosponsors is the same as “passing” LRFA and means performance rights legislation, like the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, is dead. 

No doubt breaking their arms patting themselves on the back, they are giddy about surpassing “that magic number, which was 218,” and that it was “crucial” that they reached it.  They’ve won!

But it is what happens next that makes this podcast so interesting. LeGeyt then says “the fight is not over.” 

Not over?  WTF? I thought you won.

Michael Kinsley, a legendary opinion author, famously said: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

As a former Senator, Smith should recognize a “Kinsley Gaffe” when he sees it. Admitting that the fight for fair pay for artists isn’t over just because NAB arm-twisted 218 Representatives into cosponsoring their LRFA resolution is such a gaffe.

 Let’s break down what LRFA really is. It’s a non-binding resolution. That means exactly what it sounds like – it’s a piece of paper that a Member of Congress uses in order to recognize something, like their love of the Denver Broncos, they use this process to congratulate them on their Superbowl win (a little premature I know, but you get my point).  But it doesn’t change the law or have any substantive effect at all.  Hence, “non-binding.” 

To go back to SchoolHouse Rock, does that magical moment where a bill becomes a law happen when this thing gets to 218?  Does it go to get signed by the President at that point?  Of course not.  For one thing, 218 “co-sponsors” does not equal 218 “votes” – and it takes votes to pass the House.  Many of these so-called co-sponsors have agreed to be listed only because they know they are not being asked to vote or do anything binding.  Some of them actually support performance rights!  

And even if the House voted, SchoolHouse Rock reminds us that only sends us over to the Senate.  And that’s it.  These things never go to the President.  They aren’t laws.

(And obviously no President would sign this ridiculous “don’t pay artists” resolution – the last six Administrations of both parties support performance rights and fair pay for music creators.)

That’s why “the fight is not over.”  As they seem to concede, the non-binding resolution has absolutely no impact on whether a real bill, like the Fair Play Fair Pay Act is passed.

So why is the NAB trumpeting this to NAB Members? One wonders if claiming a Potemkin victory over a meaningless, expensive, and time consuming project like this is needed to justify their membership fees to their members.

But at least it served one purpose – reminding everyone that, yes, this fight is far from over.


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