BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY NEWS: Country Music Association (CMA) Hires Locklin, Promotes Piatt

(CelebrityAccess News Service) – CMA has hired Hank Adam Locklin as senior manager of membership and industry relations and promoted Jamie Piatt from membership coordinator to membership manager.

"Responding to the needs of our membership has always been vitally important

for CMA," said Rick Murray, senior director of strategic marketing. "By hiring Hank and promoting Jamie, our membership department is at full strength and looking forward to working closely with our members."

Locklin has experience working with A&R, artist management and music publishing. The son of country music artist Hank Locklin, he has also worked with Bluewater Music and Loretta Lynn Enterprises.

"Hank brings an extensive network of industry contacts, a varied background

and the energy and passion we need to aggressively evaluate our member needs and grow the organization during these challenging times," said Murray. "We are all very excited to have Hank join us. "

Piatt began at CMA in 2000 as a receptionist before moving into the membership department. As membership manager, her responsibilities include overseeing CMA membership and working closely with the industry relations department.

"Jamie has been a consistent, steadying force in our membership department for several years," said Murray. "Her commitment to maintaining the integrity of our membership and the care she takes in working to address member needs combined with her desire to increase membership and foster a community for CMA and the industry will be critical in the years ahead. We are pleased that Jamie will be joining the other CMA managers to implement our day to day operations." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Smith's Copyright Legislation Passes House 406-0

WASHINGTON, DC (CelebrityAccess News Service) Below is Rep. Lamar Smith’s, R-Texas, statement supporting his sponsored bill “The Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act (CARP),” which passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and is on to the Senate for a final vote.

Over the last twenty years, Congress has attempted to develop the appropriate mechanism to govern royalties; that is, how to distribute royalties to those who create and how to adjust royalties when necessary. In other words, we have tried to find a compromise that allows for the fair distribution of royalties when two parties can’t agree on the value of a creative work.

When I say “fair distribution of royalties” that could mean many things to different parties, particularly the creators of copyrighted works. It is a major reason why this issue is again before Congress.

Congress established the first entity to deal with this in 1976. Ten years ago, that system was abolished to create the current Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP, system.

This legislation that I authored addresses the main problem: frivolous royalty claims, which is a growing trend, as well as decisions made by the Copyright Panel that are unpredictable and inconsistent.

Much like another intellectual property rights bill that reforms the Patent and Trademark Office, this legislation is critical to the entertainment industry and a growing economy.

It is of great importance to artists, songwriters, music publishers and webcasters. For example, take the case of a songwriter and a web caster.

If a songwriter can’t reach an agreement with a webcaster about the value of a song in the marketplace, the matter is brought to the copyright royalty and distribution system. The private parties involved pay for the process.

What happens now is songwriters are not left with much of a royalty payment because the process is too lengthy and too costly. If the songwriter cannot make enough money from his creations to support himself, then he will no longer be able to create and our economy and our society will be the loser.

This is the central reason why we are here today: to ensure that the songwriter has the incentive to create and the webcaster has the benefit of distributing enjoyable musical creations.

Unfortunately, American songwriters and web casters today are caught up in a royalty system that is anything but fair. The current proceedings to establish royalty rates are long, laborious and costly.

They harm our economy and take a tremendous toll on the businesses and persons involved. Congress must reform this broken system, which is exactly what this bill does.

I urge my colleagues to support a balanced and fair process that will, for example, help songwriters and bring a little more melody into the lives of the American people. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers

Senate Panel Approves Indecency Fine Hike

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is inching closer to making it much more expensive for a radio or TV station to air something indecent.

The Senate Commerce Committee, following its House counterpart, voted Tuesday to increase the fine for indecent programming from $27,500 to $500,000.

The bill also would delay the Federal Communications Commission's new broadcast ownership rules from taking effect until investigators at Congress' General Accounting Office can study any relationship between media consolidation and indecency.

Lawmakers appear eager to crack down on what critics say is increasingly coarse programming airing during hours when children can hear and see it. The rallying point was last month's racy Super Bowl halftime show that ended with singer Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson's breast to 90 million viewers.

"Americans, especially parents, are fed up with content producers and broadcasters who have for too long ignored regulations that are designed to keep a standard of decency and protect children on the public's airwaves," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a sponsor of the bill.

The Senate bill would count each utterance rather than each program as a single indecency violation, but it would cap the maximum fine for a 24-hour period at $3 million. It also would direct the FCC to begin license revocation procedures after a third indecency violation.

The FCC already has said it will begin fining broadcasters for each indecent incident.

The indecency rules prohibit over-the-air radio and TV stations from airing material that refers to sexual and excretory functions between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children may be tuned in.

Some broadcasters worry that stronger regulations could infringe on the First Amendment.

"We've always been called upon to defend the worst of speech," said Joseph A. Reilly, president of the New York State Broadcasters Association. "We're never called upon to defend Lawrence Welk. I'm a little concerned about chilling free speech while we regulate it."

The legislation also would hold up the FCC's media ownership rules until the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, looks into whether there is relationship between indecency violations and media consolidation. The rules, temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court, would make it easier for companies to own newspapers and broadcast stations in the same community.

"The evidence suggests that more of the complaints are filed against the larger organizations," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. "We don't need fewer voices in this country controlling the media. The growth of concentration in radio and television has been alarming in recent years."

The committee rejected a provision to apply broadcast indecency standards to cable and satellite channels. The FCC currently has no power to regulate those channels, which are available to the 85 percent of the 108.4 million U.S. households with televisions.

Meanwhile, the nation's largest radio chain, Clear Channel Communications announced Tuesday it had bought equipment to provide for up to a 20-second delay for live broadcasts. The chain earlier had announced it would pay a record $755,000 fine for broadcasts of "Bubba the Love Sponge," which the FCC found indecent, and fired the disc jockey responsible.

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The bills are S. 2056 and H.R. 3717.

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On the Net:

Senate Commerce Committee

Federal Communications Commission indecency page

RealNetworks Launches Exclusive Down The Alley Live Performance Series

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — RealNetworks has launched Down the Alley, a new series that gives music fans access to exclusive live performances and interviews from established and emerging artists through RealNetworks' groundbreaking RealPlayer 10 media player and the Rhapsody Internet jukebox service. The series kicks off with a live set from Nashville-based recording artist Mindy Smith, whose well-received debut album One Moment More was released earlier this year on Vanguard Records.

RealNetworks offers video footage of Down the Alley performances through the Music Guide section of RealPlayer 10's Real Guide, where music fans can also enjoy free music videos, complete CD listening parties, and more than 3,000 Internet radio stations. Full, high-fidelity audio clips of Down the Alley performances are available for on-demand listening through the Rhapsody service and for sale through RealPlayer 10's integrated music download store. The company has already recorded a number of performances for upcoming episodes, including the Trampoline Records Showcase (debuting the week of March 8th) with performances from Minibar, Nadine, Jukebox Junkies, and Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers, and a live set from Something Corporate (week of March 22nd).

Down the Alley interviews and performances are taped at RealNetworks' studios in Seattle, where artists can unwind from their grueling tour schedule by bowling at the company's in-house bowling alley and perform in a relaxed setting conducive to delivering memorable performances. The artists choose their own material for these performances.

"We've created an environment where artists can do what they do best — play great music — and it shows," said Tim Quirk, executive editor of RealNetworks' Rhapsody editorial staff. "Down the Alley sessions capture musicians playing music from the heart, and we love the fact we can give fans the power to enjoy these exclusive performances however they like: by watching the videos for free, listening to the songs in Rhapsody or buying downloads in the RealPlayer Music Store." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Comcast Says Disney Not A 'Must-Have'

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Comcast Corp., rebuffed in an unsolicited buyout offer of Walt Disney Co., said Monday that Disney was not a "must-have" acquisition.

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, speaking on a conference call, said he still believes that in the growing world of personalized television, Comcast can take Disney's movie portfolio and distribute it over its cable lines.

"We can create value at a faster rate for both companies," he said. "Is it something we have to do? No."

By contrast, Roberts said Comcast's 2002 acquisition of AT&T's cable television business was a "must-have," because it tripled Comcast's size and exposed it to new markets.

Comcast's bid for Disney was initially valued at $54 billion. Comcast, the nation's No. 1 cable company, also said it would assume $11.9 billion in debt from Disney, which owns ABC, ESPN, movie studios and theme parks.

Since then, Disney's stock has risen about $2.70, increasing the company's value by about $5.3 billion. Comcast's stock price has dropped about $4, dropping the company's value by about $9 billion.

Disney has twice declined Comcast's offer, while Comcast has repeatedly said it won't increase its bid.

"If it happens, great. If it doesn't, life goes on," he said. "We're going to continue to stay focused and operate our core business."

In trading Monday, Disney's shares were down 22 cents at $26.26 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Comcast lost 36 cents to $30.08 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Virgin Group Forms Partnership With MusicNet

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — Virgin Group has formed a partnership between Virgin Digital and MusicNet, marking the first time that a company will combine the worlds of retail, mobile services, consumer-electronics and the Internet into a cohesive, global digital music destination. The new offering will bring together Virgin's unique media assets to develop a full service entertainment destination for consumers who want to access their music anytime, anywhere. Zack Zalon, most recently general manager of Radio Free Virgin, will spearhead the company.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies, stated, "Passionate music fans have made it clear that they want their music when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. Well, we've heard them. We're going to redefine the way that our customers relate to their music — we're going to take digital music into the stratosphere."

Virgin Digital, the digital-entertainment platform of the Virgin Group, will work directly with MusicNet, to integrate and promote a digital download store and subscription music club into the Virgin Digital service. This global service, incorporating over 700,000 music tracks, will allow consumers to either purchase music a-la-carte, or to pay a small monthly fee to gain unfettered access to the entire catalog of available music without any surcharges. Each option will be available on the Internet, in retail stores, on mobile phones and on consumer electronics devices.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the millions of consumers who are as dedicated to music as we are," said Simon Wright, chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group. "We will offer a 360-degree world of music through Virgin Digital with more selection, better sound quality, exclusive customer service features and the passion and attitude that defines the Virgin experience."

MusicNet's CEO, Alan McGlade, concurred, stating "We are thrilled to be working with Virgin in a global relationship with significant reach and well known assets spanning online, wireless, retail and devices which promises to deliver the industry's most entertaining and accessible digital music experience. MusicNet is already the leading service provider of digital music with more on demand music subscribers than any other company. This partnership is the perfect example of two best of breed companies bringing together their respective expertise to deliver a great digital music experience to consumers everywhere." –Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

GE Offers Stock To Fund Vivendi Deal

BRIDGEPORT, CT (AP) — General Electric Co. said Monday it plans to offer about 118 million shares of its common stock to raise capital for its purchase of Vivendi Universal's entertainment interests.

Vivendi Universal and General Electric reached an agreement in October to merge the French company's Hollywood studio, cable TV networks and theme parks with GE's NBC business, creating a media giant with about $13 billion in annual revenue.

The new company will include the NBC television network and its cable channels CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo and Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo as well as Vivendi's Universal movie and TV studios — which already make NBC's hit show "Law & Order" — plus the USA, Sci-Fi and Trio cable channels and several theme parks.

Universal Music Group, the largest music company, is not part of the deal and will be retained by Vivendi.

NBC will own 80 percent of the new entity, with the remaining 20 percent controlled by Vivendi. NBC Universal will be led by Bob Wright, vice chairman of GE and chairman and chief executive of NBC, the companies said.

The stock offering is expected to raise about $3.8 billion at current market prices.

GE is paying $3.8 billion in cash as part of the Vivendi deal. Vivendi, an 86 percent shareholder of the Vivendi Universal Entertainment, will get $3.3 billion of that cash.

Shares of GE were down 41 cents at $32.36 in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

New Disney Chairman Faces Tough Scrutiny

NEW YORK (AP) — The Walt Disney Co.'s dissident shareholders gave a chilly reception Thursday to George Mitchell's appointment as chairman, saying the selection of the longtime board member proves nothing has changed at the embattled media giant.

Mitchell got the job late Wednesday after the Disney board, reeling from a contentious shareholder meeting, decided it was no longer appropriate for chief executive Michael Eisner to also serve as chairman.

The board chose Mitchell, a former U.S. senator and diplomat, as a replacement — despite the fact that nearly a quarter of shareholders had voted Wednesday against re-electing him to the board.

That decision outraged critics, who believe Mitchell has done a poor job of speaking out against management.

"The board is thumbing their nose at shareholders," said Greg Taxin, chief executive of Glass, Lewis & Co., one of the institutional investment research firms that had recommended withholding support from Eisner and Mitchell. "The notion that someone with a 24 percent withhold vote should be elevated to the role of chairman is a sad and laughable result."

Disney had come under fierce attacks in recent months from shareholders angry about the company's mixed financial results and what they perceived as its disregard for their rights. The dissatisfaction snowballed after two former directors, including the nephew of Walt Disney, mounted a campaign to oust Eisner, Mitchell and three other members of the board for poor performance and failing to make corporate governance reforms such as separating the chairman and chief executive positions.

Although Eisner was the chief target, Mitchell was also criticized for what some viewed as his too-cozy relationship with Eisner. Mitchell and Eisner are old friends, and Mitchell had previously been a consultant for Disney. Before his appointment as chairman, he had served nine years on the board and was its presiding independent director.

"He's going to have to convince shareholders something new and meaningful has occurred here — and that's going to be difficult with a board that has virtually the same composition and the same apparent leadership" as before, said Peter Clapman, a senior vice president and chief investment counsel at retirement system TIAA-Cref, which also had opposed Eisner and Mitchell's re-election to the board.

Mitchell, who declined to comment Thursday, has repeatedly expressed his support for Eisner and the board. In a March 2 editorial in The Wall Street Journal, he said he considered his role as presiding director a "special responsibility" but noted that, "It is not the job of the board to run the company. That is the job of management."

Mitchell, who left the Senate in 1994, is now a partner in the Washington law firm Piper Rudnick — though he has said he is not a full-time lawyer and has enough time to be an effective board member.

Besides Disney, he is a director at FedEx Corp., Staples, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and previously served on the boards of Xerox Corp., UnumProvident Corp., Casella Waste Systems, Inc., and Unilever.

But some question how much Mitchell can contribute to a corporate board, given his lack of business experience.

"A board member has the role of being an adviser to and monitor of a CEO," said Steven Kaplan, a finance professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. "While (Mitchell) has experience on the advising side given his career, on the monitoring side where the big issue is — it's much less clear" how qualified he is.

Stanley Gold and Roy Disney, the two former Disney directors who led the anti-Eisner and anti-Mitchell campaign, reiterated their criticism Thursday.

"This board just doesn't get it," the two said in a statement. "Once again, we see half measures, cosmetic changes and poor choices."

Gold added, "Mr. Mitchell has a checkered history as a corporate director and lacks the business acumen, independence and credibility to serve as chairman of The Walt Disney Co. His selection as chairman is a terrible choice by this board. It is a grave disservice to their shareholders."

CalPERS, the California pension fund that owns more than $235 million worth of Disney stock, declined to comment Thursday on Mitchell, saying it is focusing on getting Eisner out of office by the end of the year.

"We don't think the company got it. All Disney did was change the titles of two people," spokeswoman Pat Macht said. "There's a mega-disconnect here between this company and shareholders."

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