Testimony of Charles Warfield at Hearing on Music Licensing
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- YMF Media Senior Advisor Charles Warfield, NAB's joint board chairman, testified this morning at a House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet hearing on music licensing issues.
Below is a transcript of his testimony as prepared for delivery.
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Good morning, Chairman Coble, Ranking Member Nadler and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Charles Warfield, and I am the Joint Board Chair of the National Association of Broadcasters. Over my 37 year career in and around broadcasting, I served as President of one of the country’s first wholly minority-owned radio station groups, I ran the day-to-day operations of some of America’s top radio stations, and I even worked as an executive at a record label.
Over that time I learned that broadcasters serve our listeners in many beneficial and significant ways. Radio broadcasters inform, educate, and alert listeners to important events, topics, and emergencies. We introduce them to new and old music. We entertain them with sports, talk, and interviews. We are local, involved in our communities and serve the public interest. For those reasons, I am proud to testify today on behalf of thousands of free, local, over-the-air radio stations across the United States.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the core objective of copyright law is the public good. Not the creator’s interest. Not the user’s interest. But the interest of the public at large. Unfortunately, in testimony before this Committee, some are arguing for fixes to copyright law that serve a very different goal – ensuring that their individual constituencies receive greater compensation at the expense of both music licensees and listeners. Nowhere in their arguments do they emphasize the need for balance, the interest of consumers, or enhancements to competition – any one of which would promote the public good.
In contrast, stepping back from any one piecemeal legislative proposal before this Subcommittee, it is clear that taken as a whole, the time-tested laws that govern the relationship between the music and broadcast industries promote the public good in three important ways.
First, the existing law has enabled a locally-focused broadcast radio industry that is completely free to listeners. Anyone with an AM/FM antenna can access our programming completely free of charge - especially in times of emergency when other forms of communication fail. Radio is unique among entertainment mediums in that there is no subscription, broadband package, or expensive wireless data connection needed for access.
Second, the resulting popularity of radio has significantly contributed to a U.S. recording industry that is the envy of the world, both in terms of size and scope. While U.S. copyright law may contain some critical differences from its international counterparts, those differences have fostered the largest recording industry in the world; one that dwarfs that of the U.K., Germany, France and Italy combined. Our unique system of “free airplay for free promotion” has served both the broadcasting and recording industries well for decades to the benefit of listeners.
The fact is, in all 37 years of my career, I have never had a record executive come to my station and say “why are you playing all of my music?” I have never had a promotion department refuse to provide us with their newest record on the day it comes out. They show up at radio where they see the value and realize that we are the greatest promotional tool for their artists. And we’re happy to provide them with that.
Third, and most importantly, the community-based nature of local broadcasting has driven our industry to extraordinary levels of public service. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York City's WQHT-FM (“Hot 97”) put its music on hold and broadcast steadily throughout multiple power outages, providing a much-needed connection to life-saving news and information. Then, in the days following, Hot 97 ran continuous informational announcements providing critical information about disaster-relief locations and assistance. Further, it’s “Hip Hop Has Heart” Foundation provided blankets, clothing, HD radios and essentials to residents of the inflicted areas throughout the crisis.
This is just one example of our industry’s commitment to service, and it is the norm, not the exception. Each of you knows this, as you see the value of local broadcasters back in your districts every day. But make no mistake – the unique community focus of broadcast radio is only enabled by the current legal framework. I would urge this Committee to tread carefully and resist piecemeal changes to law that might disrupt this delicate balance that has enabled our industry to serve the public good for decades.
Turning briefly to streaming, I agree with others on this panel that the current legal framework governing webcasting imposes obstacles on every corner of the music ecosystem that currently prevents our businesses from collectively serving the public good. Today, whether you are a large broadcaster or small broadcaster, the revenue that can be generated from streaming simply does not, and cannot, offset the costs – so many of our members simply do not do it. I urge this Subcommittee to focus its music licensing review on changes to law that will promote a sustainable webcasting industry to the benefit of artists, songwriters and consumers.
In conclusion, NAB stands ready to work with you to ensure a vibrant and competitive broadcast industry – now and in the future – that serves the public good. I am pleased to answer any questions you may have.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.