The Radio Music License Committee, a trade group representing radio stations in the U.S., has filed a petition in the Federal Southern District of New York to hold consolidated rate proceedings before a single designated judge. That would, in effect, pit ASCAP and BMI, the two largest performance rights organizations in the U.S., against each other if the motion is approved, as reported by Billboard.
The petition utilizes a provision in the 2018 Music Modernization Act that moves rate hearings for the PROs to Southern District judges if the PROs are unable to agree on rates with the RMLC. While the two PROs ordinarily argue their rate trials before separate judges, this move would put them before one, which would effectively position the two organizations against each other in determinations of market share and other matters.
Not surprisingly, the PROs had a fiery response to the move.
ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement, “The litigation filed today is squarely aimed at reducing what powerful RMLC radio stations pay songwriters, who are the lifeblood of the radio industry. The RMLC is weaponizing their market power to punish the songwriters whom it relies upon for its business. ASCAP will vigorously fight for the right of our members to be paid fairly.”
BMI said in a statement, “We are astonished that the RMLC has decided to bring an unprecedented joint action against BMI and ASCAP, relying on a gross mischaracterization of the Music Modernization Act. We are also disappointed that the RMLC opted to commence this action rather than engage in negotiations with BMI. We will vigorously oppose the improper joint action and look forward to establishing the significant value of the BMI repertoire to radio before the BMI rate court.”