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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Black Folks Feuding - Black Radio and CBC

Why are black folks fighting each other? Why is there a bitter feud between black radio, CBC over royaltie?

A battle over music royalties has pitted members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) against the owners of black radio stations, sparking a rare public fight between African-American powerbrokers that could work against lawmakers used to easy reelection.

The debate has become so intense that the NAACP, the civil rights group that has spent nearly a century advocating for black Americans, has stepped in to call for a truce.
Leading the charge against the lawmakers is Cathy Hughes, the founder and chairwoman of Radio One, the nation’s largest black-owned broadcast company.

She has aired a series of radio ads targeting black lawmakers, with the most recent round questioning the ethical integrity of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the chief sponsor of the legislation calling for radio stations to pay royalties to musical performers, and seeking to connect him to federal bribery-related charges to which his wife recently pleaded guilty.

The fight has divided the liberal civil rights community, with the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) supporting Conyers while black leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson line up with Hughes, Radio One and other black-owned stations.

Radio One’s ads have also criticized Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and three other members of the CBC: Reps. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.).

These lawmakers support Conyers’s legislation, which was approved in May by the Judiciary Committee and would require AM/FM radio stations to pay royalties to performers, such as Dionne Warwick, who didn’t compose some of their most popular songs.

Under current law, stations only pay copyright royalties to artists who compose hit songs, not those who perform them. Other media, such as satellite and Internet radio, must pay royalties to performers.

The owners say a law requiring them to pay additional royalties would bankrupt their stations.

The barrage has begun to take a toll on lawmakers who come from traditionally safe districts and are accustomed to cruising to reelection.

“We’ve been dealing with this for months now and it’s been creating a number of headaches when we want to focus on healthcare reform,” said Andy Phelan, communications director for Johnson. “It keeps churning and churning and churning. They’re running a lot of negative ads not just against my boss but Mr. Conyers, Mel Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee and Bobby Scott.”

Radio One operates stations in or near the districts of Conyers, Jackson Lee, Johnson and Scott, according to its website.

In a new round of ads running on Radio One, Hughes highlights a recent ethics complaint filed against Conyers by the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative watchdog group.

Hughes describes Conyers’s “role in writing a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency that supported a waste project tied to his wife, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery while she served on the Detroit City Council.”

Hughes then goes on to quote from the complaint: “John Conyers could not have written the letter without knowing something, and it is crucial that he be questioned under oath under penalty of perjury. MORE HERE

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