Congress Not Too Tuned In To Intervening On Internet Radio’s Behalf

Jun 29th, 2007 // Comment

During yesterday’s hearing on the proposed hike in royalty rates for Internet radio stations, members of the Small Business Committee were not optimistic about the prospect of intervening with a proposal for new royalty rates:

No can do, said House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez. The New York Democrat said she’d prefer Webcasters and the music industry come up with their own compromise. “I really don’t think Congress would be the best type of vehicle to resolve this type of issue,” she said after the testimony of seven witnesses, including independent record-label owners, musicians, and Webcasters. “July 15 is just around the corner, and I hope the two parties can come together and resolve this issue.”

Some legislators said they’re genuinely puzzled about how to come up with a decision that would appease both parties. “I have not heard what the win-win is,” said Representative Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) after hearing the witnesses’ testimony.

The remarks may serve as a barometer of Washington’s attitudes toward Internet radio at a critical juncture for the broadcasting industry. Bills relating to Web radio are making their way through committees in the House and the Senate, while the recording industry plans to impose new royalty fees on traditional radio, also referred to as terrestrial radio.

If the Internet Radio Equality Act doesn’t get passed by Congress, there’s another branch of the government that could intervene; Webcasters have taken their case to court, and are hoping that an appeals court judge will look at the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision before July 15. Radio analyst Kurt Hanson has full coverage of yesterday’s hearing, and he’s still optimistic about IREA’s passage; he also notes that Internet radio supporters have sent about 400,000 letters and e-mails, and made about half a million phone calls, to their representatives. This is obviously a developing story, and we hope that the CRB and broadcasters come to some sort of agreement over the next two weeks, and that the agreement they do come to doesn’t “mysteriously” favor larger broadcasters.

Webcasters’ Plea Falls on Deaf Ears [BusinessWeek]

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