Internet radio fees expected to increase

Public broadcasting and small, online noncommercial stations will be impacted.

On July 15, Internet radio providers will have to start paying higher royalty fees to music rights holders. Under a decision made by the United States Copyright Royalty Board in May, Web-only radio stations, as well as regular broadcasters who also stream online, will have to start paying more for each song played to each listener. The new fees are expected to hurt noncommercial radio stations the most.

Noncommercial radio stations, which log more than 149,150 hours of copyrighted music per listener, will be forced to pay the same price as commercial radio stations. This will significantly impact National Public Radio, local public radio stations and small privately operated stations, like college radio.

Also, these radio stations will have to more accurately calculate their listener base. This will require new, expensive software as well as labor involved in keeping track of which songs were played when and how many people were listening to that performance.

Appeals by NPR and numerous other opponents of the royalties increase were declined by the CRB during April.

Legislation has been written to express the deficiencies of the new royalty hike. The Internet Radio Equality Act of 2007, written by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., sheds light on the problems with the CRB decision including its lack of distinction between commercial and noncommercial stations as well as the burden of recordkeeping.

We must do what we can to protect the entity that is public broadcasting and other noncommercial radio. Higher royalties only promise a reduction in the variety of programming that is available to radio listeners and an increase in the amount of work stations have to endure to continue providing distinctive and culturally enriching programming.