The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have urged the House Judiciary Committee to delay any action on legislation supported by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) until the committee holds a hearing to weigh the legislation's impact on minority-owned broadcast radio stations.
Noting "two significant voting rights cases" before the Supreme Court, Rainbow PUSH and the Lawyers' Committee explained that "the chief remaining resource to ensure that African Americans can participate fully in the democratic process will be the continued engagement of minority radio broadcasters to drive turnout."
"However, passage of H.R. 848 would eviscerate this remaining, powerful resource," said a letter signed by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Barbara Arnwine. They urged the Committee to conduct a "thoughtful public hearing on the consequences this legislation would have on minority radio broadcast ownership and service to minority communities before any official committee action is taken."
In a separate letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (MI), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights urged the Committee to "delay any immediate action" on H.R. 848 "until the impact of the bill on women and minority broadcasters has been fully explored."
"We are concerned that the Performance Rights Act as it stands may actually limit media diversity," LCCR wrote. "We urge you therefore to delay any immediate action on H.R. 848 and to conduct an additional hearing to fully air the issues that we and others have raised."
"Today's letters raise important questions regarding the negative impact of the performance tax on minority broadcasters, niche programming formats and media diversity," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. "Minority broadcasters often serve as the only voice for African-American and immigrant communities. NAB salutes these civil rights leaders for questioning how a multi-million dollar fee on minority broadcasters will benefit society."
n related news, NAB placed a print advertisement in Capitol Hill publications on May 7 thanking a bipartisan group of 184 House lawmakers and six Senators who have cosponsored a countering resolution, the Local Radio Freedom Act. "190 and growing..." reads the ad, which runs today in POLITICO and National Journal's Congress Daily.