Meeting the needs of Non-commercial Radio
Following Congressional action in 1995 (the “DPRA”) and 1998 (the “DMCA”) to create sound recording performance royalties for digital transmissions of music (i.e., the Internet), noncommercial religious stations feared that this dynamic new streaming medium for expanding their ministries could be cut off due to out-of-control royalty obligations. In 2000, when the first Webcaster rate-setting proceeding was scheduled before the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (the “C.A.R.P.”), a group of noncommercial radio operators formed a subcommittee under the umbrella of the NRBMLC in order to participate in the proceeding. Since that time, the NRBNMLC was a full party to a second Webcaster proceeding in 2005-2006.
Additionally, every five years new noncommercial musical work royalty rates are negotiated with Performance Right Organizations (P.R.O.s) ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Once the parties arrive at an agreement, it is approved by the Copyright Royalty Board (the “CRB”), a government-appointed rate-setting panel. If the parties cannot agree, the CRB oversees a proceeding that is a full litigation. The cost of opposing a rate increase before the CRB can be prohibitively expensive, making the cost of performance royalty rate increases appear small by comparison. In 2007, the NRBNMLC negotiating team successfully avoided a nearly 20-fold rate increase with the P.R.O.s that was being demanded by songwriters, but was forced to concede a still unusually large rate increase rather than litigate rates before the CRB.
The NRB Beginning
In the early 1940s in America, the emerging culture of hostility between so-called mainline Protestant denominations and the rapidly growing Evangelical Christian movement reached a crisis phase in the world of radio broadcasting. Protestant denominational leaders argued for regulations that would restrict access to the radio broadcast spectrum.
Yet in 1943, the Federal Council of Churches (later renamed the National Council of Churches) supported proposed regulations that would result in every Evangelical broadcaster being taken off the national radio networks.
The Federal Council of Churches was eventually able to persuade all three national radio networks – NBC, CBS, and the Mutual Broadcasting System – to adopt the proposed regulations. Subsequently every Evangelical Christian broadcaster was taken off the national radio networks, with their only access being small independent stations with a very limited audience.
In response to this challenge, 150 Evangelical Christian broadcasters and church leaders held a series of meetings that led to the formation of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). In the fall of 1944, members of the NRB adopted their Constitution, Bylaws, Statement of Faith, and Code of Ethics. And thus began a multi-year effort by NRB to build credibility for Evangelical broadcasters.
These efforts bore fruit. Evangelical radio broadcasters were again a dynamic and growing presence on major radio networks, with scores of new programs serving a vast national audience. Today, the Christian multimedia association birthed by its early visionary radio broadcasters operates in a far more complex electronic media environment, while retaining its original focus of defending and expanding access to electronic media platforms for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
NRB has a global reach, serving its members, the communications industry and the public by maintaining access to the airways, opening new markets for broadcast and promoting communications excellence in all media. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., near Capitol Hill, NRB maintains a close working relationship with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Congress, the courts, and the Executive Branch, representing the interests of NRB members and the people they serve.
NRB serves its members, the industry, and the public by protecting ACCESS while promoting communications EXCELLENCE. NRB maintains rapport with the FCC, the broadcasting industry, and government bodies through its Office of Government Relations.
NRB Music Licensing Edward G. Atsinger III serves as Chairman of the NRB Music Licensing Committee. Providing committee oversight is Russ Hauth, Executive Director and Harv Hendrickson serves as Chairman of the noncommercial component. Through the years this committee has successfully waged a number of legal and legislative battles with the performance rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc.), protecting a viable model for Christian music on terrestrial radio.
Self-supporting and directed, the NRBMLC is a standing committee of the “NRB”. The NRBMLC (commercial) and the NRBNMLC (noncommercial) are accountable to the NRB membership; the services of both are available to non-NRB affiliated radio stations that are not legally represented by another music license committee.
- Music licensing is big business. The commercial U.S. radio industry alone pays hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the PROs, which then distribute the majority to their membership.
- On another level, the system of music licensing is highly efficient. Rather than separately licensing thousands of users for each of their songs, songwriters and publishers affiliate with a PRO (also known as a music licensing “society”), which is able to handle the vast majority of all license transactions.
Meeting the needs of Noncommercial Radio
Operating under the umbrella of the commercial NRBMLC, the NRBNMLC was given a “voice” in music license proceedings, both for terrestrial licenses as well as Internet streaming with SoundExchange. The NRBNMLC has faced all of the PRO’s in negotiations going back to 2003.