NAB to fight fees

Board votes to take streaming levy to appeals court

The National Association of Broadcasters pledged to continue its court fight against having to pay royalty fees to stream their signals on the Internet. The association also will push the FCC to issue rules for digital radio and expand its marketing campaign for digital television, the NAB radio and TV boards decided in Washington last week.

NAB plans to challenge a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last August upholding the Copyright Office's decision that broadcasters should pay record companies for the right to stream their content, though how much remains in dispute. NAB will file an appeal with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The Librarian of Congress is scheduled this week to release his final ruling on what those fees should be. An arbitration panel's fee schedule was rejected by the office, a move seen as a victory for broadcasters.

The radio board also voted to urge the FCC to move quickly to write rules so that digital AM and FM radio can be introduced. Robert Struble, president of digital radio company Ibiquity, briefed the radio board on how Ibiquity is addressing the interference problems digital AM radio experiences at night.

The NAB board got some support from Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee. Upton visited the board and strongly opposed the effort by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) to require radio and TV broadcasters to give federal candidates two hours a week of free airtime in the month leading up to elections. The proposed bill, to be introduced this week, also would levy a spectrum-usage fee on broadcasters and give that money to candidates for broadcast campaign ads.

The issue of developing a broadcast-technology lab to help spur digital tech was not raised at the board meeting. Sources say David Donovan, president, Association for Maximum Service Television, is developing a plan and getting members of his association to sign off on it before he presents anything to the NAB board.

The NAB TV board will continue its push to educate consumers on digital, launching its "digital TV zone" plan in Washington this summer and adding new markets to the plan later this year; it's considering Orlando, Fla., as the next site, sources said.

The board also elected new leadership.

Michael Fiorile of Dispatch Broadcasting was elected chairman of the TV board, while Andy Fisher of Cox Broadcasting was elected vice chairman.

Ginny Morris of Hubbard Radio is new radio board chairman. Steve Newberry of Commonwealth Broadcasting is vice chairman. Post-Newsweek's Alan Frank was elected to serve as designated TV board representative on the NAB's executive committee; Carl Gardner of Journal Broadcast Group will be his opposite number on the radio side. David Kennedy, president of Susquehanna Broadcasting, remains joint board chairman for another year.

The NAB Education Foundation made $142,000 on table sales on last week's Service to America gala dinner and awards banquet. It turned those profits over to relief organizations to help victims of the 9/11 attacks.