Internet radio equality
So I’m probably coming to this hopelessly late, but something called the “internet radio equality act” was introduced today in the Senate in response to a recent move by the Copyright Royalty Board to significantly hike the fees that internet radio stations pay on the songs they play. I know just enough about this to be pretty confused, which means I don’t have any insight to offer to one way or another (though I confess my instincts tell me that drastic increases in regulatory fees is probably not going to be a good thing for people who love and listen to music via online radio). But I put it out there fwiw. I do think I remember seeing a note from Marlin Taylor of XM34 Enlighten about this a while back (he was, naturally, opposed to the Copyright Board’s decision), which means the small world of sg is not immune.
Questions I have: what are the chances of this legislation passing before the Copyright Board decision goes into effect (I see the Senate is voting on this next Tuesday)? And factoring out the chicken-littling from affected radio stations and the partisan rhetoric of the Board’s proponents, what are the realistic on-the-virtual-ground effects we should expect if the fee hike takes place (that is, will internet radio get put behind a subscription wall, disappear altogether, something else entirely)?
Update: in his typically omniscient fashion, reader CVH covers a lot of the important bases in all this:
The CRB has the authority to impose rates based on federal regs given as part of the Communications Act and other FCC regs. The move for higher rates has come because of lobbying on the part of the RIAA (record industry). Yes, all broadcasters, broadcast or internet-only, pay royalty fees to the performance rights organizations, but those rates are not taking internet play into account. The proposed CRB rates are totally different. Webcasting is not covered by those agreements.
The CRB’s proposed rate increases of anywhere from 300% to 1200% of the current rates would have a major impact on any AM or FM station that simulcasts online and would really hit entities that are solely internet broadcasters, since many of those are already non-profits that don’t have deep pockets. The RIAA and thus the CRB are really going after the big boys, Yahoo, AOL, etc., but in the process many small webcasters will be seriously affected if the rates are allowed to go into effect. Actually, the start date has been moved back to July 15 from next Tuesday which gives hope that some Congressional action may take place that will override or at least moderate the CRB’s ruling.
I can say that as someone who works in the industry it’s extremely confusing and time consuming - in the last few months I’ve pored over literally hundreds of pages (in VERY fine print) reviewing the history of the situation, the Federal Register’s records, the appeals and review process and, finally, the most recent ruling. There are some exceptions (for some non-comms and educational outlets) but what it really does seem to come down to is the RIAA, losing millions of dollars a year because of the slump in CD sales and the impact on downloading, is trying to legislate additional revenues. The monies are supposed to be distributed among all parties but who knows how or if that will really work.
The pending bill (see link below) gives hope but if it is unsuccessful, initially, AMs and FMs that simulcast will probably pull their signals, at least temporarily. There is usually little revenue associated with internet radio - it’s a convenience and more than anything a marketing tool. But if the expense outweighs the benefits, which will undoubtably be a different equation for each radio operation, there will be little incentive to continue it as it’s been. Internet-only stations will be in the toughest position; those that simulcast online will have to decide if it’s economically feasible to continue. Online radio is a growing but still small percentage of overall listenership and many listeners would not pay for the “convenience” of having it, especially in the case of commercial stations that play commercials and non-program content for up to 32 minutes per hour.
Here’s a link for more info if you’re intersted: www.savenetradio.org/