The NAB streams both ways

Radio wants cheaper copyright fees; TV wants protection
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The NAB's radio and television boards have determined a position on Internet streaming that sends radio broadcasters in one direction and television broadcasters in another.

The full board of directors last week held two conference calls to determine how NAB should approach Internet streaming on Capitol Hill. It ultimately concluded that the organization should push Congress to legislate a more workable economic model for radio streaming, while being clear that TV stations don't want their signals anywhere near the Internet, and the board wants to make sure no door is opened that would lead to widespread streaming of television stations.

An unfavorable ruling by a three-judge copyright arbitration panel in February will make it far too expensive for most radio broadcasters to stream their signals over the Internet. The ruling, which the Librarian of Congress is scheduled to review and make final by May 21, would require radio stations to pay per-song, per-listener royalty fees that could cost radio broadcasters thousands of dollars per day.

NAB's radio board of directors wants NAB staff to fight for legislation to change that decision.

NAB's opportunity to join that fight comes next week, when the House Judiciary Committee begins an intra-industry discussion of how best to legislate the problem of distributing music over the Internet. The legislation on the table, sponsored by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah), mainly involves Napster-like problems of file-sharing, but radio broadcasters see the bill as their opportunity to get an amendment that would reduce those royalty fees.

In the meantime, TV broadcasters want their signals kept completely off the Internet. They already have some experience with beaming their signals into distant markets—superstations, for example—and have discovered that further exposure doesn't translate into more money. In fact, they say, it just dilutes their advertising base.

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