Commercial radio is actually a very polite industry.
With the exception of a few operators, the industry always wants to play by the rules; it’s all very civilised really.
Problem is, when you’re playing with gutter-fighters, Marquis of Queensberry rules don’t apply, and, if you don’t take off the gloves and fight bare-knuckles every now and then, you’re forever going to get left battered and bleeding in some back alley.
What is it they say “never bring a knife to a gun fight”. You have to know your enemy.
Such is the case with the PPCA dispute currently before the Copyright Tribunal.
All attempts at a civilised solution prior to the beginning of the hearing have failed, but apparently, not for the lack of trying on commercial radio’s side.
Reportedly, they just kept running into brick walls at every turn.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull should also hang his head in shame.
He has turned his back on the radio industry; a sector that is an integral part of his portfolio and his responsibility.
Minister Turnbull has implicitly given comfort to the music industry and the multi-national record companies through his repeated failure to take any action on additional fees for the simultaneous streaming of radio programs.
I know its Canberra and they think differently from the rest of us, but, deciding not to take any action, is not action, no matter how much you spin it!
The minister who is actually responsible for the music industry and the multi-national record companies, and whom you’d expect to be their voice in government, is the Minister for the Arts and Attorney General, George Brandis.
So far, he’s kept his head down and we haven’t heard ‘boo’ from him on the streaming issue.
But then, why should he say anything, when the Minister for Communications appears to be fighting his battle for him.
For more than a year, Commercial Radio Australia has been asking the Communications Minister to get involved and help sought out the mess.
CRA has presented Minister Turnbull with a solution that would solve the issue that is disenfranchising possibly millions of Australian radio listeners, who want convenient access to radio programs on alternative technology – PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Unfortunately, those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Members and senators from his own party have been privately begging the Minister to take action, as angry constituents from around the country, particularly in regional areas, show their displeasure at the current broad-based shutdown of radio streaming, for which they are now squarely blaming the government.
Malcolm doesn’t seem to care; seems he doesn’t really understand the problem of perception. He’s a Sydney boy, and, if it doesn’t affect his privileged Sydney electorate … well, you know!
Largely the problem with commercial radio, as an industry, is that they inherently want to play nice with the other folks!
Many licensees are reluctant to exercise the massive power and influence they have at their fingertips.
In fact, most of them don’t realise how potent a weapon they have at their disposal, and, if they do, many are certainly gun-shy when it comes to using it.
Turning off streaming to avoid paying potentially massive retrospective fees to PPCA was a decision that had to be made on a case-by-case basis by individual licensees.
Given the facts, the decision was really a ‘no brainer’ for most operators and the result was overwhelming.
In fact, the impact clearly caught PPCA by surprise.
However, as with those previous decisions, any decision to take future action by commercial radio must also be decided on an individual operator basis.
The industry must avoid, at all costs, any appearance of collusion or violations of the boycott provisions of the Competition and Consumer Law.
This, however, doesn’t prevent them from collectively discussing potential courses of action that may be available to them and then, as individual licensees, go away and make their own decisions on what they will or won’t adopt on their own stations.
Some of those potential actions that could be open to broadcasters may include not providing any airtime for interviews with coalition politicians or politicians of any persuasion for that matter, or, not running any news stories about government policies for a lengthy period of time.
They could possibly use their own airtime to publicly call on the Minister to take action by having disenchanted listeners call his office on masse.
… and, given that various record companies are now belligerently stating that radio is no longer an important promotional vehicle for them, perhaps, broadcasters could embark on a responsive strategy by refusing to back-announce any track titles or artists on the music they play, or, refrain from mentioning any promotional information, such as touring venues or upcoming album release dates for a couple of months.
If you’re listening to the way some record companies are maligning radio at the moment, they shouldn’t be in the least concerned if this type of action were adopted, as the lack of promotion, according to them, would have minimal impact on their business … Yeah, right!
Proactive campaigning is regarded as a last resort in an industry with a committed history of community involvement spanning nearly 90 years, and, it’s true that many of the more conservative operators would be reluctant to embrace the concept.
But, when you’re at war - you’re at war.
Right now, the radio industry is figuratively in the Alamo … the well-funded international troops are amassed outside the walls and cannon fire is beginning in the Copyright Tribunal.
It’s gloves-off time.
It’s time to take the fight to those who would see this industry done harm and it’s time for radio’s leaders to show what they’re really made of.
I won’t spoil it, however, by telling you how the Alamo worked out!
This blog was originally published on radiotoday.com.au