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US: DOJ backs antitrust lawsuit against radio stations

 |  December 8, 2019

The US government on Thursday, December 5, signaled its support for a private lawsuit alleging antitrust violations by Radio Music License Committee, a group that negotiates music licenses on behalf of most of the country’s radio stations.

The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division filed a “statement of interest” supporting Global Music Rights, a company that represents songwriters, in a lawsuit accusing Radio Music License Committee of price-fixing.

According to Variety, the DOJ’s argument has the potential to topple the long-standing structure of music licensing in the radio business. Under the current rules, stations license songs from ASCAP and BMI, which represent more than 90% of artists, at rates set by a third-party arbitrator. The system has been in place since 1941, when the DOJ entered into a consent decree with ASCAP and BMI, which barred them from using their dominant market power to charge exorbitant rates.

The Antitrust Division, led by Makan Delrahim, has already signaled that it is interested in upending the existing music licensing regime. In June, the Division launched a review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees to see whether they should be terminated.

Full Content: Variety

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