Radio, TV Takes the Offensive in Indecency Battle

BMI’s Preston Stepping Down

Bulletin Board

Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

April 19, 2004

It's about friggin' time.

After kowtowing to Congress and the FCC for everyone from Janet Jackson and Bono to Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge, at least some of the country's media companies have decided they're not gonna take it anymore.

Viacom, Fox, RadioOne, Citadel, Beasley and Intercom are joining with activists like People for the American Way and Media Access Project to ask the FCC to overturn its recent decision that the F-word, and any other word the commissioners don't like, can be punished with major fines or license revocations.

Neither NBC, whose broadcast of a Bono expletive on the Golden Globes prompted the FCC decision, nor ABC had joined the fight at presstime. NBC was expected to file a separate petition Monday. ABC is not planning to participate.

Others asking the FCC to back down include performers Penn & Teller and Margaret Cho.

If the FCC doesn't strike the Bono ruling, the protestors plan to file an appeal in federal court.

The resulting legal battle could land any anti-indecency legislation in the Supreme Court, where at least one lawyer, Bob Corn-Revere, of Davis Wright Tremaine, believes firmly they will win.

"The commission's harsh new policy has sent shock waves through the broadcast industry and is forcing licensees to censor speech that unquestionably is protected by the First Amendment," he wrote in the petition. "The FCC consciously assumed the role of a national arbiter of good taste, and its decision already is exerting a chilling effect."

The chilling effect can already be seen in NBC's decision to blur an 80-year-old woman's exposed breast in a scene in ER; the implementation of delays during live shows; deletion of a hint of cleavage from a PBS documentary; firing of raunchy DJs; and even a public station's dismissal of longtime host Sandra Tsing-Loh.

Many have criticized the FCC's inconsistency in defining indecency, and the lag time in petitioning for violations. Bono's use of the "F"-word on NBC's telecase Golden Globes in January 2003 wasn't a problem until six months later, when the Parents' Television Council protested the FCC's ruling that the "fleeting" uternace didn't warrant punishment.

Corn-Revere also points out that FCC decisions saying euphemisms may also be indecent raise the question of whether "friggin'" or "freakin'" or "effin" might be off-limits as well.

Viacom President Mel Karmazin has so far refused to pronounce any content indecent, suggesting that was a matter for the company's lawyers to determine, and alone among his broadcast bretheren, has stated a willingness to challenge the definition of indecency in the courts.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

April 21, 2004

Perhaps the most powerful female executive in the music business is leaving her post.

Frances W. Preston, who has served as President/CEO at BMI for the past 18 years, will step down down from that position in August. Executive Vice President Del Bryant has been named her successor. John Cody will continue in his role as Chief Operating Officer for the company. The Bryant/Cody team will take the helm at BMI in September, said Preston, who will become President Emeritus.

The announcement was made at the annual dinner hosted by BMI at this year's National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

Preston said, "More than two years ago, the Board and I began developing a strategic plan for the continuation of leadership in BMI's management. The first step in this carefully planned management transition came in the fall of 2002 when we named Del Bryant as BMI's Executive Vice President and John Cody as Chief Operating Officer.

"This year we will take the next step in this transition. In September, Del will take the helm as President and Chief Executive Officer of BMI; John Cody will continue to lead our financial and business systems as Chief Operating Officer.

"I will continue to offer my insights and counsel to BMI during a transitional period through the end of the year as President Emeritus. I also look forward to continuing to assist BMI in the future in areas where my experience and network of personal and business relationships can be of value."

Said BMI Board of Directors Chairman Ken Elkins said: "We were pleased that after an extensive search, including many senior executives in the music and entertainment industries, the Board found the best qualified leadership within BMI in the team of Del Bryant and John Cody. Each of them brings unique skills and critical experience to the challenge of managing a 21st Century music enterprise. And we are happy that Frances will continue to be available to advise BMI's management and to lend us her exceptional charisma and the respect and admiration of everyone in the artistic and business communities which BMI serves."

Preston joined BMI in 1958 after working in the music and broadcasting industries in Nashville. She opened BMI's regional office there, and quickly led the organization to a position of preeminence in the area. She was appointed Sr. VP Performing Rights in 1985 and President/CEO in 1986. She is a member of BMI's Board of Directors.

BMI's revenue has grown more than three times over Preston's 18-year reign, to more than $625 million. The company has become an internationally respected leader and a unique success story as the entertainment industry has been transformed by digital technology and globalization.

Under Preston's leadership, BMI has enjoyed a record of constantly increasing revenues and royalty distributions to its more than 300,000 songwriters, composers and music publishing affiliates. During the past year, BMI paid the largest amount of royalties of any American performing right organization. Its international revenues have grown to record numbers and it has been a pioneer in licensing the new digital media. The Preston era has seen a transformation of BMI's business in which more than half of all revenues are now received from non-broadcast sources.

Bryant said, "For over 32 years I have admired Frances' never-ending desire to serve the songwriting community, and her philanthropic nature. She is an exceptional executive, leader, role model and friend."

Bryant served throughout the '90s as Sr. VP of BMI's Writer/Publisher Relations and Performing Rights departments, where he acquires and develops BMI's writer/publisher catalog and leading the company's efforts in the areas of royalty and copyright administration.

Cody joined BMI in 1999 as Chief Financial Officer and was appointed COO in 2002, overseeing Finance, Operations and Information Technology, and Human Resources, among other departments.

HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.

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By Kenny Kerner

Expectations are running high for George Michael's new CD called Patience on Epic Records....Prince (that's right, he's abandoned the symbol for reality) has signed a production and distribution deal with Sony Music Entertainment for his new Musicology CD which will actually make it into retail record stores as opposed to being available on the Internet only...Van Halen has reunited with singer Sammy Hagar and will tour throughout the summer.

BMG has announced a major ring-tune deal with Sprint. For a mere $2.50, subscribers can choose cell phone ring tunes from Britney Spears, Kenny Chesney, Maroon 5, the Stokes or Pink. Known as music tones on the Sprint Network, these are actually clips of real recorded music by the original artists.

Wanna check out Madonna's new tour that focuses on all of her classic material? Well, better crack open that piggy bank because a great seat will cost you about $300 bucks! And by the way, a recent Pollstar survey showed that the average ticket price is now around $50. I remember the days when I bought a front row ticket for Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore East for $6.00. Today, that won't even get me into the parking lot!

Rodney Bingenheimer is the subject of First Look Pictures film, The Mayor of Sunset Strip. The documentary recently opened nationally. Rodney is a long time DJ on Los Angeles radio station KROQ (Rodney on the Roq) and is credited with helping to launch the careers of Van Halen, David Bowie, Oasis, the Ramones and numerous others.

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