NPR has just announced they will no longer be members of the highly controversial MIC Coalition. The question that remains, why did they join MIC in the first place?
“Just a month after launch, the MIC Coalition lost yet another member today when NPR joined Amazon in rejecting the organization’s anti-artist agenda and dropping out of the MIC Coalition,” said digital collection organization SoundExchange in a statement following the news. “SoundExchange applauds NPR for taking this stand for the future of music and artists everywhere. We look forward to continuing our long-standing, positive collaboration with NPR.”
In what can only be described as a troubling and uncharacteristic alliance, NPR had joined Google, Amazon (which has also left MIC), Pandora, Clear Channel and the National Association of Broadcasters in opposing any increases in compensation that would have benefited songwriters and musicians.
This was expected from the National Association of Broadcasters, Pandora and others as they prepare to oppose any positive changes for musicians and songwriters recommended by the Congressional Subcommittee reviewing current copyright laws, but the shocker was NPR joining this group.
After all, for decades NPR has been supported by the generosity of recording artists who have performed and provided music, DVDs and tickets to their live shows to help public radio raise money. Plus, NPR already pays one of the lowest statutory rates for broadcasting and streaming music.
So if it’s not about the money, what was NPR’s motivation in supporting the commercial broadcast industry in opposing a living wage for artists?
After all, NPR has enjoyed a vaunted reputation as an advocate of the little guy. Now, all of a sudden they are lending their name to mega corporations in their quest to pay as little as possible for an artists’ work. Something’s not right here.
It may just be their new CEO, the fifth since 2009, Jarl Mohn, who aside from his extensive experience in broadcast media, doesn’t appear to be a fit for NPR.
Jarl Mohn, whose on-air name was Lee Masters is credited with creating the slogan: ‘No rant, no slant‘, which sounds more like Nancy Grace than Charlie Rose, was appointed as NPR’s CEO a year ago.
In the press release from NPR, about his hiring, this is what Mr. Mohn had to say about his previous experience:
“The first thing I would think if I were a reporter or anybody inside the organization (NPR) or outside is — ‘Oh my God. This guy’s coming in. He’s worked at MTV. He’s worked at VH1. He’s worked at E! This is the direction we’re going?’ And I can tell you with 100 percent certainty: absolutely not.”
Mr. Mohn’s independently wealthy and politically connected. He’s contributing more than $200,000 to politicians over the years; although he did say in the same press release that he was going to stop making political donations.
He’s also connected to technology companies, sitting on the board of the Web analytics company ComScore.
None of this is a clear indictment of their new CEO, but the decision from NPR’s Policy and Representation division to join the Mic Coalition, was reportedly made without discussing the endorsement with NPR’s newsroom, their journalists or on air personalities. Ultimately, it had to have been approved and most likely championed by Mr. Mohn, given his extensive experience working in commercial broadcasting.
Apparently, NPR’s Policy and Representation division haven’t been fielding the angry calls from musicians who feel betrayed by their actions. In a leaked e-mail claimed to have been sent from within NPR, there was information confirming where the endorsement of the MIC Coalition came from:
“We have joined the MIC Coalition through NPR’s Policy and Representation division…. Our participation in the coalition is completely separate from NPR’s newsroom. NPR journalists and music curators have absolutely no role or involvement in the coalition.”
Was NPR’s abrupt and unexplained departure from MIC the result of an internal battle between NPR Senior Management and their editorial division? If an article posted on NPR’s Website just after they joined MIC any indication the answer may very well be yes:
“Music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora continue to grow more popular with music fans — but not with musicians, who complain they used to earn more in royalties from CD sales and music downloads. Songwriters say they’ve been hit even harder, and the Department of Justice appears to be taking their complaints seriously: It’s exploring big changes to the music publishing business for the first time since World War II.”
It is one thing for a newcomer, even if he’s CEO, to advocate joining an outside organization, it is quite another changing the philosophical underpinnings of a news organization that prides itself on taking the high road and representing individuals over powerful corporations.
Chalk this victory up to musicians and songwriters.
Updated. Originally posted May 11, 2015 by William Buckley Jr. NPR Senior Management Turns Against Musicians.