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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Traditional Black Radio vs The New Internet based Black Talk Radio Network™

I just finished reading an article regarding Cathy Hughes and her call to action to help Save Black Radio!
In the article she writes about how the Honorable John Conyers, our 80 year old African-American Congressman is the sponsor of a new bill that could put many black owned radio stations out of business. And force others to abandon their commitment to provide free music, entertainment, news, information, and money losing formats like gospel and black talk.

Hmm ... well there appears to be a need for further review.

Check this out:
Black Agenda Report.com Managing Editor Bruce Dixon has written about this issue in more detail in his post; Will Saving Black Radio Save Local News And Public Service?

Bruce says: A few weeks ago Radio One founder Cathy Hughes, echoed by Tom Joyner and dozens of other radio personalities, sounded the alarm. HR 848 they cried, a bill to make stations pay a “performance rights” fee for every song played, was a mortal threat to black radio. In a widely circulated blog post which was echo-blasted to everybody on any Radio One email list, Hughes cited black radio's stellar contributions of news, diversity and local content as reasons why African American communities should rally to protect it. She even claimed black talk and gospel were “money losing formats [1]” as if these were public services and tithes offered out of Radio One's bottomless reservoir of corporate good will.

The laughter was pretty hard to suppress. Commentators like Paul Scott and Mark Anthony Neal ran columns titled “Should We Save Black Radio? [2]” and “Should Black Radio Die [3]?” to which they answered “probably not” and “maybe.” The widely known fact, as BAR's Glen Ford pointed out six years ago in “Who Killed Black Radio News [4]” is that Radio One led the industry in purging news, public service and local content of all kinds from its airwaves in favor of cheap, syndicated, uninformed talk, mostly about celebrities and relationships. Radio One's payola-influenced playlists are indistinguishable from its white-owned black radio competitors. Perhaps to protect their audiences from too many confusing facts, Tom Joyner, Cathy Hughes and the rest of the "save black radio" posse never mention that white broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters in fact, are just as opposed to HR 848 as they are, for most of the same reasons. So the truth is surely more complicated than Cathy Hughes and her posse would have us believe.

HR 848, the so-called Performance Rights Act, which Hughes says may be the death knell of black radio is sponsored by Detroit congressman John Conyers. It has dozens of high-profile celebrity boosters. The legislation will supposedly compensate performing artists – authors, composers and copyright holders are already taken care of by other intellectual property laws – when their work is played on the radio. Putting aside for the moment the economics of radio stations, it doesn't sound like an inherently bad idea. Artistry is work, and work ought to be paid, right?

Will Revenue From the Performance Rights Act Actually Reach Performers?

The answers here are: not much and not likely. Given the historic business practices of the industry, and the provisions of HR 848, it's safe to say artists won't see much of this money. It will be extracted from radio stations,and collected and disbursed by Sound Exchange or other representatives of the same suits who have made an industry out of stealing from artists since the dawn of time, or at least since recording business managed to make the recorded product it distributed and controlled, instead of the artists' live performances which it did not control, the music industry's main revenue stream. HR 848 also guarantees industry execs the right to rake an unspecified portion off the top for handling charges.

Section 6(1)(1)(a) of the law says that entitlement of the artist to these payments is “...in accordance with the terms of the artist’s contract,” rather than in addition to or outside of and not subject to the contract. In plain English that means a cleverly written or dishonestly administered contract can easily divert these new “performance royalties” to pockets other than those of the performers.

As Mark Anthony Neal put it:

Record companies are simply disingenuous when they suggest that artists will benefit from the passing of HR 848, when their own business practices guarantee the average artist less than 10-percent of profits generated from the sale of their recordings and the companies will themselves take part of the proceeds generated from the collection of a “performance tax.” If the RIAA and Record companies were really so concerned with the plight of artist, they would create less exploitive relationships with artists.

The representatives of RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, clearly wrote this law for their own benefit, not that of artists. It's no secret that CD sales, and recording industry profits have been on the downtourn for years. The RIAA blames this on digital technologies and downloading, and it has used its lobbying muscle in Congress to pass one law after another against what it calls digital "piracy.". According to Lawrence Lessig, RIAA has aided the Department of Justice in prosecuting 25,000 people over the last few years for downloading songs over the internet without paying license fees. As far as anybody knows not a penny recovered has gone to artists. Two years ago RIAA imposed a similar fee structure on internet radio, making it prohibitively expensive for many of those stations to incorporate any sort of music in their programming. The defenders of internet radio saw the handwriting on the wall; they predicted that broadcast radio would be next. Tom Joyner, Cathy Hughes and the rest did nothing, and now the wolf is at their door. Read more at: blackagendareport.com

I'm glad that the new internet based Black Talk Radio Network™ is up and going. It will eliminate much of the politics involved in radio, and provide more control to average black Americans.

PS: Don't forget to join Black Opinion.com and Black Talk Radio Network™ and take the Online Black Talk Radio Survey

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