Local Radio Freedom Act makes third pitch to Congress

A new version of the Local Radio Freedom Act has arrived before Congress, the third effort to pass legislation about radio industry royalties. The bill calls for protections that will block “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” from being levied against radio stations because they “provide free publicity and promotion to the recording industry and performers.” A bipartisan group legislators have signed onto the bill as co-sponsors.

This is the third attempt by the radio industry to pass the non-binding resolution against new radio fees, with similar bills failing in 2017 and in 2015. Perhaps the passage of the Music Modernization Act shows a new interest among lawmakers to address music-related copyright rules, or maybe the supporters are hoping that the third time is the charm.

The LRFA is a project championed by the National Association of Broadcasters, which has argued that radio would face “severe economic hardship” if charged additional royalties. “America’s hometown broadcasters are deeply grateful for this broad, bipartisan display of congressional support for the Local Radio Freedom Act,” NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said. “Decade after decade, free radio airplay has propelled the careers of countless performing artists and generated hundreds of millions in revenue for the record labels.”

However, the act has been just as firmly countered by labels and other music industry representatives. “Here we go again,” musicFIRST Coalition representative Trevor Franci said in a statement. “The NAB will dedicate months and spend millions accumulating names on a motion that falsely protects ‘local radio’ and that will never become law. Meanwhile, the radio marketplace continues to change for NAB’s members, and not for the better. The NAB may want to focus less on lobbying in D.C. and more on how radio can provide music fans the innovation they want in today’s digital world.”

Anna Washenko