Broadcasters have long cried foul that pay-TV companies show publicly-subsidized TV without compensating them for the content they’re providing. CBS CEO Les Moonves has said, “Receiving fair value for our content is core to who we are and we will remain resolute in this principle.” Indeed, over the next five years, broadcasters will demand nearly $25 billion from pay-TV consumers for “free” TV.
But when it comes to paying other content creators, broadcasters refuse to pay a nickel. In fact, they’re actively lobbying Congress to ensure they don’t have to pay “fair value” to musicians whose music is played on broadcast radio stations. As Mr. Moonves puts it: “The idea that we have to pay them to put their music on our radio stations is absurd.”
This hypocrisy by broadcasters is truly galling. The only thing more disturbing is that Congress has allowed it to continue for so long.
Fortunately, there is now a bipartisan bill to keep the broadcasters honest. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have introduced the “Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act,” which will deny the right to grant retransmission consent to a television broadcast station if the owner of that station also owns an FM or AM radio station that is not compensating musicians for their work.
Broadcasters shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways: demanding huge retransmission consent fees for their content while simultaneously refusing to pay even a dollar to musicians for their copyrighted work.
Congress needs to support Reps. Eshoo and Blackburn and finally force the broadcasters to decide whether they truly believe in “fair value” or not.