Webradio — a Slight Return

  • Webradio — a Slight Return
    This year saw a massive decline in broadcast radio stations also broadcasting on the Internet. This is due to the recording industry association (RIAA) pursuing the payment of royalties for Internet broadcasts that they don’t collect for conventional broadcasting, and due to questions about additional royalties owed union voice talent who appear in broadcast commercials. Currently the rates for Internet broadcast music royalties are being negotiated in arbitration, but the nation’s largest radio station owner, Clear Channel, has just reached a deal to replace on-air ads using union talent with different ones specifically for the web, and therefore paving the way for the company to resume web broadcasts of at least 250 of its radio stations. The Internet-only ads will still use union voice talent–apparently the union’s rates for Internet-only ads are cheaper than for ads intended for broadcast.

    Of course, this still leaves open the question of the music royalties. This is the issue that forced many non-profit and small chain and independently owned stations to discontinue web broadcasts, since the rates are yet undetermined and the RIAA intends to charge stations retroactively once they are established. Many community stations like WEFT, where I volunteer, can’t afford to take the risk of web broadcasting when they don’t know how much they might end up owing, which effectively keeps these stations off-line. For a huge conglomerate like Clear Channel, which owns 1500 stations, this is less of risk, given that their profits are phenomenal. Thus, web broadcasting, if you do music, is starting to look more like conventional broadcast, with the price of admission already getting higher.

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