By Hannah Osborne
The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA) is a bi-partisan bill introduced to protect radio stations from paying additional taxes and fees to air music. Sen. Con. Res. 5, was introduced to the 118th Congress by Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in March 2023. The bill expresses support for the LRFA, standing against proposals by the music industry to impose additional taxes on radio stations for playing music.
As stated in the bill, “Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings.”
Currently, local radio stations are threatened by the potential of being charged additional taxes or fees to stream music. The resolution highlights that radio and the recording industry have shared a long-standing beneficial relationship.
“For most of Radio’s 100+ year history we have shared a mutually beneficial relationship with the music industry and specifically the artists who write and perform the music,” said the Georgia Association of Broadcasters’ President Bob Houghton. “Radio has offered free promotion that has been valued at over $2 billion annually. In exchange for playing music on-air, artists benefit from free publicity and promotion through air-time, on-air interviews and more.”
Houghton recently spent time in Washington alongside the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the National Association of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) advocating for the important policies that impact broadcasters, including the LRFA. In addition, the GAB annually attends the State Leadership Conference sponsored by the NAB.
A change like this in the broadcasting industry would prove to harm both large and small market stations.
“Local broadcasters simply cannot take on the additional costs that the multi-billion dollar recording industry is attempting to impose on us through Congressional mandate,” said Val Carolin, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Salem Media Group. “Our ability to serve our local communities will be diminished and the voices of our local communities will be silenced, leaving only the voices of large national media hubs driving the conversation.”
The functions of a successful broadcasting station are not limited to the entertainment and news values they provide on a day-to-day basis. Broadcasting stations, like Salem Media Group’s 104.7 The Fish, provide support to their communities through fundraising campaigns.
“We serve our fellow citizens by raising and distributing funds in our community through our charitable 501(c)3 and we raise money for other charitable organizations through large fundraising campaigns several times a year,” says Carolin. “Increasing our costs, especially during this time when operating costs are going through the roof, would deliver a crushing blow to our ability to serve our communities as our FCC licenses direct and as we have committed to doing so.”
Oppositions to the Local Radio Freedom Act claim that “Big Radio” is attempting to undermine music creators; in reality, the Local Radio Freedom Act is protecting the local stations that support musicians’ livelihoods.
“The support of the Local Radio Freedom Act has had bipartisan support for the past 10 sessions of Congress with Georgia’s members of Congress on both sides of the aisle co-sponsoring again this year,” said Houghton.
The bill currently has the support of 22 senators co-sponsoring the bills and 187 members of the House of Representatives, nine of whom are from Georgia. Passage of the LFRA is imperative to preserving the functionalities of these local stations that provide essential services and value to their communities.
“Introducing additional fees and taxes attached to the playing of music by these stations threatens the ability for these local stations to operate,” says Houghton. “With additional fees, radio stations would be forced to make big sacrifices, either in their music or public services.”