At the NAB Broadcast Leadership Conference in Washington today, Congressman Ed Markey, Chairman of the House of Representatives Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced that the subcommittee would hold hearings on the state of radio. These hearings would examine not only over-the-air radio, but also Internet radio, HD radio, satellite radio and other related businesses. This comprehensive review seems to be different from the previously announced hearing by the new Congressional task force on antitrust issues which had announced plans to review the proposed XM-Sirius merger.
While Congressional hearings often lead to nothing other than an airing of the issues and information for future legislative efforts, they do indicate areas of interest that could eventually mature into Congressional legislative proposals. A comprehensive hearing on radio issues could end up providing Congress with the information that could send it in several directions – perhaps weighing in on multiple ownership issues or on the digital radio transition, and could even prompt Congress to review any action taken on Internet radio royalties. As we’ve written before, the Copyright Royalty Board is expected to release its ruling on the royalties for 2006-2010 in the next week. The direction of this Congressional hearing, when it occurs, will be worth watching.