This week, six Congressional supporters of the broadcast performance royalty wrote a letter calling upon the NAB to sit down with music industry representatives to reach a "negotiated resolution" of the "longstanding disagreement" in a session to last from November 17 through December 1. The letter suggests that the negotiations will be supervised by Members of Congress and the staff of the Judiciary Committees of Congress, with a report to be made by the Committee staff at the end of the negotiation period which will be considered by Congress in further actions on this issue. The parties are instructed to bring individuals who have decision-making power to reach an agreement. Could this call for negotiations really result in a deal that would lead to a law requiring that radio broadcasters pay a fee for the use of sound recordings on their over-the-air stations?
First, we must ask whether there will even be any negotiations. The NAB’s only statement issued thus far says that they are willing to "talk to Congress" about the matter, but that they hoped that the discussion would include some of the almost 300 members of Congress who oppose the royalty. As we’ve written before, the NAB has over 250 Congressmen and over 20 Senators signed on to resolutions opposing the performance royalty. With the initial letter being signed by 6 supporters of the royalty, and the Judiciary Committees of both the House and Senate being filled with its supporters, why would the NAB be willing to jump into what could be seen as the lion’s den – engaging in a high stakes competition where the referees are on the record as favoring one side? Note that the NAB statement says nothing about participating in "negotiations", which the former President of the NAB had said that he would never do. We will have to see whether the change at the top of the NAB will bring a change in the attitude of the NAB. New NAB President Gordon Smith, who has been in his job less than two weeks, is said to be more of a consensus-builder than his predecessor, but he has had a very short time to come up to speed on the issue or to build any sort of consensus among those he now represents on where to go on this issue.