Webcasting D-Day Approacheth
If you've had your ear to the web stream these past few months, you know that a serious threat to internet radio has cropped up. This March, the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) and SoundExchange came up with an unfair new royalty scheme for webcasters. These new rates are so enormous that many webcasters large and small, commercial and non-commercial, would have to pay royalty sums that surpass their entire annual revenues. SoundExchange and the CRB do not seem to view this as problematic to the industry, and have yet to offer a reasonable compromise to webcasters (though they have offered many unreasonable PR-driven "concessions").
The new rates are set to go into effect on July 15, and unless NPR's request for a stay is honored by the U.S. Court of Appeals, many internet radio stations may go out of business very soon. In fact, thousands of stations participated in a national day of protest against the new webcasting rates by going silent on 6/26. This prompted 350,000 listeners to put in calls of concern to their congressional representatives. WFMU chose to boycott all RIAA-registered music that day, and I've explained our position on the matter here.
There are bills in both the House and Senate for the Internet Radio Equality Act, which set a revenue-based royalty rate instead of the per-song per-listener model favored by the CRB and SoundExchange. Although the House Committee on Small Business led a discussion about the new webcasting rates last week (you can view the entire hearing here), many Congresspeople did not appear interested in intervening. Nevertheless, it may come down to Congressional action and legislation if SoundExchange doesn't negotiate a rational rate scheme before July 15. WFMU is encouraging listeners to call or write to their representatives in support of the Internet Radio Equality Act. You can get more information at savenetradio.org or by reading this recent L.A. Times debate between a webcaster and a SoundExchange rep.
Other radio news headlines from the past month:
- Seattle talk radio host Mike Webb's death has been deemed murder.
- Clear Channel and the Society of Broadcast Engineers are aiding the student-run Virginia Tech radio station (WVUT) by replacing the college's aging transmitter.
- The FCC is seeking public comments concerning the possibility of a merger between XM and Sirius satellite radio companies.
- In other FCC news, the commission held another hearing on media ownership, this time in Portland, ME.
- An Irish radio station's novelty toaster oven malfunctioned, prompting an evacuation of the large office building they are housed in.