Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Internet Radio (and Music) Is In Danger

I enjoy listening to internet radio because it exposes me to music that I wouldn't normally hear on a commercial FM station. For dance music I listen to WMPH (which airs on 91.7FM in Wilmington, Delaware) and The Rhythm Of The City (which airs through Live365.com), and for "alternative" rock I listen to Y-Rock On XPN. Today these stations will be among the thousands of other internet stations that are signing off the air for 24 hours in a "Day of Silence" protest. This is in protest to royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling by the U.S Copyright Royalty Board back in March, and are due to go into effect on July 15. Webcasters have stated that the proposed rates would hike their payments and add an administrative fee of $500 for every channel. Webcasters say it would hike their payments from 300 percent to 1,200 percent. July 15 is also the due date for 17 months of retroactive payments at the new rates. That means that if these rules aren't changed by then, a lot of these web stations will be out-priced of staying on-air and only rich corporations, ones that have bean-counters instead of music fans, will be able to own and run them like they do with the FM and AM radio stations right now.

It pisses me off as a music fan that this might or would happen. I think the reason why the CPB are doing this is these are folks that are involved with the music industry that resents people (like me) who are looking for alternatives to commercial FM radio that plays a limited amonut of songs in tight formats with lots of commercials in between. They would be happy to shut down any alternative outlets and make it easier for them shove the latest Paris Hilton CD or the scowling rapper du jour or whatever acts they're pushing this week down the public's throat. And no, I don't want the new Paris CD. (And a lot of people would agree with me on this, considering her record label recently dropped her!) Does some suit from Clear Channel knows my musical tastes better than I do? I don't think so!

On June 28th The House Committee of Small Business will hold a hearing to look into the resulting effects of the March 2nd CRB ruling and it's impact on the Broadcasters. (My Congressman, Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, is on that committee.) And recently the Internet Radio Equality Act of 2007 has been introduced in Congress, which would overrule the board and put Internet radio on the same royalty rate as satellite radio, 7.5 percent of revenue if it becomes law.

I hope that the CRB ruling will be overturned and some other rate that's more reasonable and sensible in its place. I'd hate to see stations like WMPH or Y ROck On XPN either curtail their webcasting or drop it altogether and genres like dance and alternative rock (which aren't on many commerical FM stations in the US these days) lose more exposure (and having their sales go further down in the process). And I'm certainly not going to regular FM radio where they play the same 20 Paris Hilton, 50 Cent, and Nickelback songs over and over with lots of commercials in between. As a fan of music I demand more than that. And you'd agree with me if you're one too.

See SaveNetRadio.org for details on how you can get involved. And also, please sign the online petition (courtesy of WXPN) to urge your member of Congress to pass the Internet Radio Equality Act.

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