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State Associations: Hands Off ASCAP And BMI Rates

Article from InsideRadio

The Department of Justice’s review of the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI rate-setting presses on, but that’s not keeping Congress from getting into the act. The Senate will hold a hearing this week to look at whether the courts are still the best way to set rates and to discuss the system that five state broadcast associations have gone on the record as defending.

The associations in Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Carolina are expressing support for keeping ASCAP and BMI on a short leash. In letters to their state’s senators, each of whom sits on the Senate’s Antitrust Subcommittee, the association presidents say the current “balanced system” has allowed stations to secure “reasonable rates and conditions,” despite the “substantial market power” of the performance rights organizations.

And North Carolina Association of Broadcasters attorney Wade Hargrove warns, “Without the consent decrees, ASCAP and BMI would — as they did years ago — engage in anticompetitive practices and impair the ability of local stations to access music.”

The music community is pushing the DOJ to take rate-setting duties out of the hands of U.S. District Court in New York and hand the responsibility to the Copyright Royalty Board, where they believe songwriters are more likely to win higher rates. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC each support the idea.

The proposed Songwriter Equity Act introduced last week would make that change. But the National Association of Broadcasters says it would subject local radio stations to new fees, and is lobbying against the bill.

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