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Broadcasters Amp Up Lobbying Last Year to Combat AM Dashboard Battle.

With efforts to win support for a bill that would require cars to come equipped with AM radio picking up steam, and a radio royalty bill still lurking in the background, the National Association of Broadcasters increased lobbying spending during the final months of 2023. The trade group spent $2.93 million to sway policymakers in Washington during the fourth quarter, the largest quarterly tally since 2019, according to disclosure filings.

NAB spent $11.15 million throughout 2023 on lobbying efforts. That is a 2% increase from the $10.94 million spent in 2022. The case for the money being well spent can be made in a milestone this month as a majority of House members backed a bill to keep AM in vehicle dashboards, with a growing list of sponsors in the Senate.

NAB spokesman Alex Siciliano credits a “proactive approach” by broadcasters in D.C. for helping give the industry more influence over how policies that benefit broadcasters are shaped. “Our advocacy to keep AM radio in vehicles has built a broad coalition and gained unprecedented momentum,” he said.

The list of issues NAB is involved with only continues to grow, now encompassing dozens of bills and topics. In addition to issues that have kicked around Washington for years, such as media ownership rules and pirate radio, the NAB has also in the past year kept busy lobbying on newer issues such as cannabis advertising, FM geotargeting, supporting journalism, and efforts to crack down on dark money in politics and its impact on political advertising.

Helping to bankroll the increased NAB spending is a resurgence of support for the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas, which is responsible for most of the organization’s funding. This year, it will also benefit from higher dues. NAB raised member fees by a 33% on Jan. 1.

Among individual radio groups, the industry got the most support from iHeartMedia. Disclosure filings show iHeart spent $3.73 million last year helping make the case for broadcasters in Washington. That was down from the $4.4 million spent in 2022. As in the past, iHeart’s list of lobbying issues aligns closely with the NAB, with topics like AM radio in cars and FM booster station rules making its Q4 list. Being invested in the streaming business with iHeartRadio, it is also active on other issues, such as data privacy.

Other broadcasters that invested in lobbying last year include TelevisaUnivision. The largest Spanish-language broadcast owner spent $920,000 on Washington lobbying last year. Hubbard Broadcasting invested $120,000 and Cox Enterprises, which holds a minority stake in Cox Media Group, spent a total of $2.17 million, although that was typically not focused on broadcast issues.

It was not just commercial radio that was busy lobbying in Washington. Disclosure filings reveal NPR spent $240,000 last year with its fourth quarter topics including emergency alerting and Zonecasting.

Among newer media companies, Spotify spent $1.28 million in Washington last year, up from $710,000 from a year earlier. The audio streamer says it lobbied on issues related to music licensing, copyright, intellectual property, and issues related to AI and content. And SiriusXM invested $90,000 before terminating the contract with its lobbying firm at the end of the first quarter.

Music Industry Pulls Back On Spending

Even as much of broadcasters’ attention has turned to a bill that would help keep AM radio in car dashboards, legislation remains pending to create a new performance right on music used on-air. But with support for radio’s anti-royalty stance building through the year, the music industry spending in Washington trailed previous years.

The Recording Industry Association of America spent $6.4 million last year in Washington, including pushing the American Music Fairness Act (H.R. 791/S. 253) that would create a radio royalty. That was down 7% from the $6.9 million spent in 2022. Earlier this month, a majority of House members said it opposes changing copyright law to make radio stations pay for on-air music use.

Among the big music companies, Universal Music Group spent $2.15 million last year per federal filings, a bump up from the $1.92 million in 2022, while Sony Music Entertainment invested $978,000, a decrease from $1.25 million a year earlier.

Other music industry groups also continued to be active, although most either held their spending steady or made modest cuts. The National Music Publishers Association spent $1.05 million last year, which was on par with 2022.

The three big performance rights groups were also spending in Washington. ASCAP invested $440,000, BMI spent $290,000, and SESAC spent $120,000. And SoundExchange, the collections agent for digital music use, spent $1.03 million on lobbying Washington policymakers.

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