Local radio stations fear cost, consequences of Performance Rights Act

By Kathy Sweeney - bio | email
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A measure gaining renewed interest on Capitol Hill has owners and managers of Heartland radio stations tuned in, and worried.
It's called the Performance Rights Act, and it would require stations to pay performers to play their music.  After being introduced nearly two years ago, the measure recently made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ron Ellis co-owns WIBH in Anna.  His station would face a $5000 yearly fee if the act becomes law.
"A $5000 hit to our station is the difference between us being able to pay our bills and us not being able to pay our bills," said Ellis.
Bigger station groups like River Radio in Cape Girardeau would have to pay a percentage fee based on revenue.
"Some other companies have already eliminated quite a few jobs," said River Radio General Manager Scott Richards.  "And now, all of a sudden, you're looking at this tax passing.  It's a question of how many jobs might be lost again because of this additional expense."
Radio stations already pay licensing fees to song writers and composers.  Both Richards and Ellis say those fees are going up in 2010.
"We're budgeted in 2010 to pay almost $14,000 a month in those fees," Richards pointed out. 
"It's going to go up to about $4800 (per year).  That doesn't sounds like a lot, but that's a 33 percent increase for us," said Ellis.
Ellis fears, if the act becomes law, it could actually shut down WIBH, or cause the station to change its format to talk only.

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