NRB asks Supreme Court to halt system that forces religious broadcasters to pay more

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on February 28, 2024.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on February 28, 2024. | MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

The National Religious Broadcasters have asked the United States Supreme Court to stop the implementation of a rate system that would reportedly force noncommercial religious webcasters to pay more to convey religious messages than secular entities.

The NRB filed a petition for a writ of certiorari last Friday to the Supreme Court, claiming that the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board “adopted rates requiring noncommercial religious webcasters to pay over 18 times the secular NPR-webcaster rate to communicate religious messages to listeners above a modest 218-average listener threshold.”

“More than 25 years after Congress established a webcasting statutory license, this Court has yet to weigh in on the Board’s and D.C. Circuit’s rate-setting decisions,” stated the petition.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

“Absent this Court’s course correction, the Board is likely to continue to disregard [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] and the First Amendment in its rate-setting determinations.”

The rates were set by the board for the years 2021-2025.

The NRB is being represented in part by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal nonprofit specializing in religious freedom that has successfully argued First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court.

ADF Senior Counsel John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy, said in a statement on Monday that he believed the Royalty Board was “violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”

“The government punishes noncommercial religious broadcasters by making them pay a license fee more than 18 times higher than NPR above a modest listener threshold,” stated Bursch.

“This unlawful discrimination forces some noncommercial religious stations to stay small and restrict their listener reach so they can afford to stream online.”

In July of last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a per curiam opinion affirming the board’s decision regarding the religious webcasters.

The judges ruled that the board had “appropriately exercised its discretion in declining to set a separate, lower rate for simulcasters” and “reasonably declined” arguments “supporting a separate rate for simulcasters.”

“The Services have demonstrated no reason to bar the Board’s consideration of SoundExchange’s increased average administrative cost, and the Board’s determination comports with our precedent as well as with the Board’s prior determinations,” continued the opinion.

“Given the evidence of (1) SoundExchange’s estimated increase in average administrative cost, (2) a voluntary agreement to a higher minimum fee between SoundExchange and CBI, and (3) general inflation since 2006, we find the Board had substantial evidence to support its decision that a $1,000 minimum fee reasonably satisfied the willing buyer/willing seller standard.” 

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles