Radio on the TV

This morning I was reading some recent blog posts about the John Conyers-sponsored H.R. 848, otherwise known as the "Performance Rights Act," otherwise known as "the bill that would destroy black radio." In theory, the bill would require commercial radio stations to pay yearly license fees (in addition to the ones they already pay) directly back to the artists, thereby helping aging artists (like Duke Fakir, original Four Top) and bringing broadcast radio level with satellite radio, where such fees already exist. But critics--foremost among them Cathy Hughes of Radio One--argue that HR 848 would disproportionately harm black radio, both financially and programming-wise.

A lot of interesting things going on. The conversation has turned, slightly, from a defense of "black radio" on grounds of principle to a referendum on whether "black radio" is really worth saving. For Davey D and other community-minded journalists, black radio's death is a foregone conclusion: the question is who killed it?

Elsewhere, Mark Anthony Neal points out why Radio One has rarely acted in the interests of the listeners and artists they claim to represent:

To be clear the debates about the Performance Rights Act are part of an on-going struggle that pits record companies--specifically the four major global conglomerates, Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony and Universal Music Group--against large radio broadcasters such as Clear Channel, CBS Radio and the aforementioned Radio-One. The bill, which has been pushed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), seeks to reverse (rather tepidly) the long known, though denied practice of "pay for play," where record companies paid "independent" promoters. Those promoters then offered financial and other incentives to radio stations to support the products of the record labels the promoters were in cahoots with.

Radio is still a very important medium, and perhaps now is the time for Radio One, Clear Channel, etc to decentralize, to promote highly localized, community-oriented programming. Maybe it would be best for Conyers et al to look into payola/pay-for-play, what Clear Channel did to KMEL, etc. Fat chance. Anyhow, I was reading all this stuff, thinking about the effect radio has had on me, thinking about whether Hughes' arguments were at all utilitarian, etc, when I received these emails, which in their own way reminded me of the sad predicament of broadcast radio (as late-to-the-game tastemaker/artist-breaker or news aggregator) circa 2009:

Artist Mony Karlo is the hottest MC coming by way of Gary, Indiana. Mony Karlo also available to do features. For bookings, magazine interviews or radio interviews please contact:
Mike B.  (baby boy)@ (646)XXX-XXXX or (404)XXX-XXXX.
HOT 107.9-- (404)741-1079

And then:

VladTV: Briana Latrise speaks out on punching Charles Hamilton, Star & Buc Wild talk Charles Hamilton aka the 'victim', Song Produced by Charles Hamilton by Briana

This isn't necessarily an endorsement of Mony Karlo, who I'm sure is a very fine rapper. (VladTV's email blasts, on the other hand? Best subject lines in the game.)

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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.

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