The National Association of Broadcasters spent $5.49 million on lobbying in Washington during the first half of the year. That is a five percent increase compared to what was spent during the first half of last year as the industry ramped up efforts to ensure AM radio remains in vehicle dashboards and pushed back against efforts to create a performance royalty right on AM/FM airplay.
The uptick comes after the NAB lobbying budget soared 35% between 2021 and 2022, which was the first year under President Curtis LeGeyt. The latest federal disclosure filing shows the NAB also spent on issues surrounding broadcast ownership regulations, EAS, and efforts to ban noncompete agreements. That stretched its efforts from the halls of Congress to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. Based on the pace of spending in the first half, the NAB is on track to spend roughly the same in 2023 as it did in 2022.
NAB spokesman Alex Siciliano says such a “proactive approach” in D.C. is essential to shaping policies that benefit both broadcasters and the local communities they serve.
"NAB’s lobbying efforts reflect the unique challenges broadcasters face today. Although Washington is often stuck in a partisan gridlock, we've successfully secured lower regulatory fees at the FCC, championed for a level playing field against big tech and garnered broad bipartisan support against any new performance fees on local radio stations,” Siciliano says. “Moreover, our advocacy to keep AM radio in vehicles has built a broad coalition and gained unprecedented momentum, with legislation introduced in both chambers and rapid progress through hearings and a markup – all within just three months.”
After the pandemic sapped the NAB of its biggest source of revenue – the NAB Show in Las Vegas – the trade group was forced to pull back on how much it spent in Washington since nearly three of every four dollars that fund the association come from its massive spring event. The return of the conference has given the lobbying teams more money to work with this year, and NAB’s financial situation will get even stronger next year when member stations will see their dues rise by a third starting next January.
The existential fight over AM’s future, as well as a variety of other potential regulatory risks, kept several individual radio groups spending money on lobbying during this year. Leading the group is iHeartMedia, which spent $1.9 million during the first half according to disclosure filings. That is on top of the $4.4 million it spent during all of 2022. As in the past, iHeart’s list of lobbying issues aligns pretty closely with the NAB, although given the importance of the iHeartRadio streaming business it is also active on webcasting reform issues and proposals calling for the creation of a comprehensive music ownership and licensing database.
Other broadcasters that spent on lobbying during the first half included TelevisaUnivision ($680,000), Hubbard Broadcasting ($60,000), and Cox Media Group’s parent company, Cox Enterprises, which spent a total of $1.34 million, although its spending was typically not focused on broadcast issues.
It was not just commercial radio that was busy lobbying in Washington. Disclosure filings reveal NPR spent $100,000 during the first half.
Among the new media companies, Spotify nearly doubled its first half lobbying. The audio streamer spent $600,000 versus $320,000 a year earlier. And SiriusXM spent $90,000 during Q1 before terminating the contract with its lobbying firm.
Music Industry Lobbying Spending Softens
The focus on AM radio does not mean the fight over radio royalties is over, and with a fresh push to change federal copyright law, the Recording Industry Association of America spent $1.53 million during the first half of the year on lobbying. But that was down 20% versus last year.
Just like the NAB, the RIAA continues to have a chorus of supporters in the form of the big record companies. Disclosure filings show Universal Music Group spent $1.23 million during the first half per federal filings, while Sony Music Entertainment shelled out $300,000.
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 $526,000 during the second quarter.
The three big performance rights groups were also spending in Washington. ASCAP invested $220,000, BMI spent $150,000, and SESAC spent $60,000. And SoundExchange, the collections agent for digital music use, spent $490,000 on its lobbying efforts.