How high are the stakes in battle for terrestrial radio royalties?

Estimates of what labels would reap vary wildly, but it’s an important enough matter that Universal Music Group spent $2.81 million lobbying the U.S. government in 2009, according to filings with the House’s Office of the Clerk. Along with file-sharing, piracy and content regulation matters, the Performance Rights Act and Local Radio Freedom Act were among the issues for which Universal said it has lobbied. Warner Music Group and Sony Music spent $487,000 and $1.76 million, respectively, lobbying for performance royalties and other issues in 2009.

Not to be outdone, The National Association of Broadcasters spent $11.1 million on lobbying in 2009. The Performance Rights Act was just one of many issues for which the NAB lobbied.

Opponents of the Performance Rights Act are lashing out this week against pending Congressional legislation that would force radio stations to pay the owners of sound recordings they play. At the same time, two members of the House have added their names as co-sponsors to the Local Radio Freedom Act, a resolution that opposes the Performance Rights Act.

Cathy Hughes, founder of the Radio One conglomerate, told the Atlanta Post it’s not the radio station’s job to pay artists.

It’s a record company’s job to pay the performers. I don’t even know a performer exists until a record company brings me a finished product! It’s like having to pay child support for a baby that’s not yours. I agree the baby should be supported, but I ain’t the mama! Those artists should definitely be paid by the record companies that are ripping me off. We don’t know even know that Rihanna exists—we don’t even know the girl is born—until the record company walks in and says here is the new release by a new artist named Rihanna.

Similarly, Tom Fortenberry of WMBF News framed this as a play by greedy record labels. “Do we really want to force some radio stations to go dark so Madonna and her record label can earn an extra million?” he asked. By the way, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, Madonna’s record label, is on the record as supporting the Performance Rights Act.