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Eshoo, Blackburn Team on Retrans/Performance Tax Bill

Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are putting their legislative muscle behind a long-standing criticism: That broadcasters don't want to pay a performance fee for radio broadcasts, while on the TV side demanding payments for retransmission consent.

Blackburn and Eshoo, who are vice chair and ranking member of the Communications subcommittee, respectively, Wednesday introduced H.R. 4588, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act.

Both legislators have argued that broadcasters' opposition to the tax and defense of retrans payments is inconsistent--both support the radio performance tax--and have now introduced legislation that would prevent any TV station from collecting retrans payments if it also owned a radio stations that did not pay a performance royalty for airplay.

“This is a basic issue of modernizing the law to get rid of a dated loophole that only applies to AM/FM radio,” Blackburn said in a statement. “Internet radio pays music creators fair market value for their performances, Satellite radio pays music creators for performances, Cable and Satellite TV/radio stations pay music creators for their performances. Everyone but AM/FM radio pays.

“Broadcasters have repeatedly told us that retransmission consent payments are fair because cable and satellite stations make millions by retransmitting local broadcast content. However, when it comes to music, the same broadcasters, many who own both TV and radio stations, sing a completely different tune," Blackburn added. "This is simply an issue of fairness and I look forward to working with Congresswoman Eshoo on fixing this glaring inconsistency.”

The National Association of Broadcasters said it "respectfully" opposed the bill.

"NAB is concerned that this legislation would devalue local broadcasting. Every day across America, local radio and TV provides a positive, competitive balance to national pay radio and TV giants. Local stations offer news, entertainment, and emergency warnings that make the difference between life and death," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton.