Broadcasters will lose one of their key allies in Congress next year as Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) announces he won’t seek reelection for a House seat that covers a large swath of central Texas. During the past several sessions of Congress it’s been Conaway who introduced the Local Radio Freedom Act which asked his fellow House members to go on the record in opposition of the performance royalty sought after by the music industry for AM/FM airplay.
Hill insiders say Conaway is well-liked and that’s proved advantageous for the radio industry as he played a role in collecting enough support for the resolution to effectively block any attempt to pass legislation creating a radio royalty. When Democrats took control of the chamber earlier this year, Conaway partnered with Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) on the latest version. To date it has attracted the support of 185 additional House members.
“We look forward to working with Rep. Conaway throughout the duration of this Congress and thank for him for his steadfast support of America’s hometown radio broadcasters,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association Broadcasters.
While the loss of Conaway will be missed by broadcasters, the industry has shown it’s able to adapt. When Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) announced two years ago he was retiring, the radio industry needed to find a new lead Democrat in the anti-royalty fight and Castor stepped into the role earlier this year. The same model would be used to find another GOP House member to carry the torch unless a long-shot compromise is worked out with the music industry before then.
Conaway, 71, is currently serving his eighth term in the House and his seat is all but certain to remain in Republican hands. The district, which includes the Midland-Odessa and San Angelo markets, as well as the suburbs of Abilene and Fort Worth, is among the reddest in the country. In 2016 President Trump carried the district by 59 points. Conaway is the sixth Republican to announce their retirement, including five others who made such news during the past two weeks.
“This is a perfect time as I transition," the CPA-turned-congressman said during a news conference in Midland, TX. “One of the things I've told folks all along is that when I'm no longer in a leadership position, I'm coming home.” Conaway said he intends to serve out the remainder of his term, while acknowledging being in the minority is a “frustrating experience.”