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SACTO STRIKES BACK

Senator Says RIAA Reps Were Given Ample Opportunity for Rebuttal

While the RIAA was not pleased with how the California Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Arts and Entertainment’s hearing on record-industry accounting practices went last week (see story), it seems that the Senators were even less pleased with the way RIAA reps conducted themselves at the proceedings.

According to a letter sent from Sen. Martha Escutia to RIAA reps, Escutia was "quite stunned that the RIAA chose to forfeit its opportunity to present its views" at the recent hearing and "even more stunned by the misimpression that RIAA representatives have relayed to the press regarding the RIAA’s lack of opportunity to participate in the hearing."

The hearing ran for seven hours, but the RIAA claimed little of that time was allotted for its representatives to speak, according to an internal RIAA. "Our witnesses, Steve Marenberg and Steve Marks, testified at noon for 20 minutes and were cut off by the chair and asked to return later...[they were] the only witnesses who were cut off all day." Meanwhile, the memo noted, other witnesses accused the record labels of wrongdoing, including attorney Don Engel, "who for over an hour called the record industry ‘one of crooks and thieves.’"

During Marenberg and Marks’ testimony, they "tried to answer some of the misstatements presented" while at the same time presenting the RIAA-sponsored study on the fairness of recording contracts. After they were cut off, however, they did not come back. "Our witnesses did not return to testify," the memo said.

In her letter, Escutia counters that "the RIAA representatives were given two time slots to present the RIAA’s views. This arrangement was worked out between [Kimberly Allman, VP State Government Relations, RIAA] and my committee staff to accommodate your concern that the RIAA get a timely opportunity to present its views while the news cameras were still present. The first time slot was for 20 minutes, during which your representative spoke for 50 minutes in front of the TV cameras. Just as we had allowed the RIAA’s initial testimony to go over the scheduled 20 minutes, I am sure that more than one hour would have been allowed for RIAA’s second time slot if needed.

"However, even before the time for the RIAA’s second appearance, we were advised by a RIAA representative that the RIAA witnesses had already left the building and would not be coming back to testify. Finally, while I may understand the need for out-of-town witnesses to make their plane schedules, that does not excuse the misimpression apparently being fostered by the RIAA that you did not have the opportunity to respond, when in fact you did but chose not to."

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