When Crikey broke news last week of recording artists’ attempt to
loosen the commercial radio industry’s stranglehold over copyright
royalties, it didn’t take long for the hugely profitable industry to
fight back. Taking its case to the government via the
Attorney-General’s Department, industry lobby group Commercial Radio
Australia is crying poor and defending its cosy statutory copyright
deal (see here).

Meanwhile, the chief executive Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner
has written to us responding to our original story. Check it out here.
CRA is trying to maintain a system administered by the A-G’s
Department, which sets fees paid by commercial radio for broadcast of
copyright music (and that’s just about all of it) at levels artists
argue are substantially lower than comparable markets overseas – 1% in
Australia, between 2% and 4% overseas.

Don’t expect the lobbying to end there. The last time the legislated
price cap was reviewed and it looked like the Government would unwind
the subsidy, some of the radio networks began to boycott certain
Australian music. No explanation was given to the record labels, let
alone to the artists who suddenly noticed the airwaves filled with US
covers and an absence of Aussie sounds.

But it was common knowledge that those artists who linked themselves
with the last campaign for a fairer deal found themselves without
air-time, even though there was popular demand for their music. This
muscle-flexing amply demonstrated to the artists and the record
companies where the power resided and how the networks were prepared to
use it.

There’s no evidence of that behaviour this time, but these operators
play rough. Sound far-fetched? Subscribers not familiar with the
mentality of FM stations should read this Nick Leys’ Strewth column in The Australian– particularly the story about 2Day FM’s decision to conduct an extended live interview with a prostitute.

Government’s attitude will be interesting, particularly with its
post-election push to cut regulation and red tape. Will it take the
side of the entrenched business interests, or will it seek to remove a
regulatory road block to fair payment and competition? Policy wonks and
battling recording artists await with keen interest.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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