Monday, May 7, 2007

Congressman Doyle's speech at Policy Day

Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Penn., caused a bit of a stir at the "Music, Technology and, IP Policy Day" event last week with his keynote speech. People were particularly interested in his comments on low power radio and the possibility of a program funding pop artists for their work. Here's some excerpts from the speech:

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.

I want to tell you a little story about a Congressman who gave a speech about mashups and mixtapes.

I never thought when I gave that speech in a House committee hearing a month or so ago that anyone would pick up on it, but a lot of folks did – folks who care a lot about issues like the future of music, radio, and the Internet.

I took a lot of ribbing from my colleagues about the speech, and I got a little grief at home about it, too.

My son emailed me asking me how I’d found out about Girl Talk.

I’ve got some Girl Talk on my Ipod, but I listen to a lot more of Steely Dan, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Doobie Brothers.

That being said, I’m a strong supporter of what’s going on in the music scene today.

I know how important music’s been to me throughout my life, and I don’t want to see government and industry choke off independent music creators and deny the listening public the opportunity to hear their work and support the music they want to listen to.

It goes without saying that independent artists get a lot of exposure on line and thru online radio stations.

But independent artists are making inroads on our culture through traditional media like television and advertisements as well.

The one place they’re not getting any exposure is on mainstream radio stations.

The music we hear on the radio isn’t what we hear during, say, an episode of Grays anatomy.

Independent label music makes up only 10 percent of the songs played on broadcast radio, compared to, say, nearly 40 percent of the music played on internet radio.

So when we talk about the future of music in this country, we have to talk about how we make sure that innovative and aspiring musicians have the potential to earn a living from their art and how we ensure that music consumers get the opportunity to hear something other than the latest hit in heavy rotation.

As you well know, a number of issues currently before Congress and the FCC could have a big impact on that process – like media consolidation, net neutrality, and Internet royalty rates.

One disturbing product of the Telecom Act of 1996 has been the rapid consolidation of the ownership of television and radio stations across the country.

This is disturbing on a number of levels.

There’s obvious concern that a radio stationed programmed out of Denver won’t provide much timely local news for residents of, say, Pittsburgh.

That can, at worst, have serious public safety implications, as many have pointed out.

But even on a more mundane level, this process squeezes out all but the most mainstream voices in communities large and small.

I ask you: Could WKRP’s commitment to local news and Jonny Fever’s musical vision have survived in today’s consolidated media market?

On a more commercial and artistic level, there’s real concern – which I share – about the homogenization of the content that these broadcasters provide.

It’s clear that the media consolidation we’ve experienced over the last 10 years has reduced the diversity and independence of TV and radio broadcasts dramatically.

On the other hand, community groups, schools and churches are trying to expand the opportunities to create low power stations in crowded urban markets.

These stations can be heard on the same FM radios – but they’re non commercial and their signals don’t transmit as far as the big full-power stations do.

I know that this issue has been before Congress in the past, and the limitations enacted in 2000 prevented the FCC from giving a low power license to groups in my district like Penn State’s Greater Allegheny McKeesport Branch who wanted to take their internet station – WMKP, “the Roar” – and put it on the FM dial, rather than just on the internet.

WMKP is the largest and most active club on campus, but they won’t be able to find room in the crowded Pittsburgh dial unless Congress tweaks the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000.

The Senate has been very active on this issue, and while Senators McCain and Cantwell got a strong vote out of the Senate Commerce Committee to expand LPFM in their Telecom bill last year, the House hasn’t seen as much action.

An LPFM bill hasn’t been introduced yet in this Congress, but I am looking at the issue and wonder why – if a full-power broadcaster can have digital stations that don’t interfere with their main channel, even if the two are right next to each other on the dial – a low-power broadcaster will interfere with a full-power station that’s 3 channels away.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what, if anything, the federal government could do to encourage the creation of new and different music.

I think the most important thing we could do is find some way to make a career in music more viable economically.

The NEA has done a great job of promoting classical music and providing much-needed financial support for classical and jazz musicians.

I think our country ought to look at doing something similar for modern music forms.

A lot of DJs and musicians need day jobs today to pay the bills.

Even small amounts of money could allow many artists to take time from their day jobs and tour the country, building a fan base, spreading new music across the country and entertaining more people.

Canada has created a program to promote and develop modern music.

The program’s been a big success – creating a vibrant cultural renaissance in Montreal and taking music magazines by storm.

At a more macro level, it’s created a cultural center that’s driving new investment and new jobs.

I want to explore such concepts, and I’d welcome feedback from you and people listening on the internet as to the best way to encourage new artists and new music.

No comments: