August 2020 – Update from NRB MLC

Dear NRBMLC Friends,

 

As COVID-19 approaches its sixth month, pent-up energy is palpable. The music industry is no exception, as music licensing matters are gaining momentum in both Congress and the DOJ. Also, Web V, before the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), is now here.

 

WEB V

 

The progress of Web V has changed little since last month, with the exception that the trial scheduled to begin last week is again on hold. The reason is that the CRB proceeding requires “virtual” set up due to the pandemic. Last reported, the needed IT equipment is still not ready.

 

Good execution is your committee’s highest priority. Since March, we have used the delay to attempt an out-of-court settlement with SoundExchange. Having done so for almost a year, our recent, more assertive efforts got us nowhere. So we redoubled efforts to prepare for a trial.

 

Our dealings with SoundExchange over the past several years have been frustrating to say the least. Moreover, we’ve once again have been forced to watch negotiated “sweetheart” deals get done early in the proceedings between SoundExchange and the other significant noncom groups, NPR and College Broadcasters, Inc.

 

After several back and forth discussions, SoundExchange’s final offer to your committee was unfortunately many times higher than what the agreed to in settlement with NPR. We’ve made it very clear that we think there is no clear justification for this disparate treatment and significantly higher rates, but our pleas have fallen once again on deaf ears.

 

As a result, unless we succeed in this trial by convincing the CRB judges to grant non-commercial religious broadcasters some much needed relief, your committee will need to seriously evaluate in 2024 whether we can muster $1 million or more in funding to join in another David v. Goliath battle where the music licensee community will be forced to spend another $30-40 million litigating with SoundExchange and its extremely deep well of resources.

 

ASCAP-BMI Consent Decrees

 

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is holding a “virtual” public workshop on July 28 and 29th. The topic is ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, currently under DOJ oversight. Those decrees became our concern over two years ago, when the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, announced he was considering vacating the decrees in the process of “cleaning up” copyright laws.

 

The MIC Coalition, (Music, Innovation, Consumers), whose members include the NRBMLC, RMLC, Pandora, and Sirius XM, wrote a letter to the DOJ last week expressing concerns with the make-up of the workshop. In the letter, MIC predicted that “without the consent decrees … the DOJ would disrupt the current delicate balance between music owners and music users if the decades-old guidelines were abolished.”

 

Delrahim was a relative newcomer when he made his statement about the ASCAP and BMI decrees. This was an abrupt change in direction from previous administrations. Most of the participants in the workshop are from big music – leaving room for only one speaker from the broadcaster perspective. The complete agenda can be found here.

 

Noncoms – Your Help is Still Needed!

 

NRBNMLC is the only entity representing the music licensing interests of noncommercial religious stations in the U.S. With commercial NRBMLC added in, 1,800 full-power AM-FM stations are represented.

 

Try to appreciate the time, money and energy that have been expended since this royalty proceeding began in early 2019. We’ve now reached the point when a key decision has been made: we must stay in because too much has been expended and the threat of no representation at trial is too great.

 

Our deep gratitude to those who have stepped up with generous donations!! But more of you need to do this.

 

If you are a noncommercial station and expect to benefit from these efforts, please come forward with a generous gift, and do so now. Now is the time for us to perform and we need your help! Please fill out this pledge form and send your committee a generous contribution.

 

Our best regards for a quick reopening and continuance of our stations’ winning ways. We are praying against the spread of the coronavirus and for the return of our nation’s economy – with the vital services our stations offer!

 

Sincerely,

Scott Hunter
Executive Director

 

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