By Nancy Jane Moore
Many online radio stations will go silent June 26 to protest the recent Copyright Royalty Board decision to significantly increase the fees they pay for the music they broadcast. The increased royalty fees are so significant that they will put many Internet stations -- most of which are lucky to break even -- out of business.
Not only will the new rates increase the costs by at least 300 percent for large online services -- and as much as 1,200 percent for small sites -- but they're also retroactive back to Jan. 1, 2006. A report on Cybercast News Service explains what the new rates do.
WAMU-FM here in Washington -- an NPR station -- is strongly supporting the Day of Silence. Several years ago it started up bluegrasscountry.org, in part because it was cutting back its broadcast music programs to make more room for news, but wanted to provide something for its hardcore bluegrass audience.
While I always want to see musicians and other artists get paid for their work, I don't think charging fees that put online radio out of business is beneficial to anyone. Yes, perhaps some of the larger organizations will survive, but the heart of online radio is in the small sites, many of which provide an outlet for music that might not otherwise find an audience. Keeping fees reasonable for the small sites is in all our interests, particularly in this day and age when ownership of broadcast media is in so few hands. The Web programs give us the diversity sorely missing from broadcast.
SaveNetRadio.org has more details on the Day of Silence.