New fees and regulations for radio stations

Rachel Hoerman

The U.S. Copyright Office is introducing new regulations that, if passed, could force college radio stations to reduce or eliminate online broadcasting.U.S. Copyright officials want to implement a regulation that requires radio stations to keep detailed reports that include information on each song they play.

The logs would include the song title, artist, album title, recording label, catalog number, and the International Standard Recording Code. The stations also need to simultaneously provide the same information.

Additionally, the stations would keep a “listener log” that recorded the time that listeners logged in and out.

These regulations would be passed as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in conjunction with the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA wishes to monitor the radio stations to ensure compliance with operating licenses.

This is the second time in recent memory that the government has attempted to regulate college radio stations.

In February, the Copyright Office announced that radio stations might be forced to pay additional fees for broadcasting over the Internet.

The fees, which could be potentially retroactive to 1998 when the DMCA was passed, would require stations to pay a per-person, per-song fee.

Commercial radio stations with simultaneous Internet broadcasts would pay seven hundredths of a cent per listener per song, organizations with online broadcasts only would pay fourteen-hundredths of a cent per listener per song, and licensed noncommercial radio stations with Internet broadcasts would pay two-hundredths of a cent per listener per song.

According to Matt Von Ohlen of WLFM, Lawrence’s radio station, these new fees would probably require WLFM to cease web broadcasting, which has only been implemented for about a year. He considers they “a little bit excessive” and observed that the fees would put nearly all web-broadcast only stations out of business.

Many others have complained that the fees are too much, especially since the plan would require a $500 minimum. This minimum, in addition to being required to pay all the fees since 1998, might cause many stations to go over their annual budget.

This is not the only cost that would be involved for some stations. Many would have to spend additional sums to comply with the regulations, and could spend over $150,000 doing so. New equipment to create databases and track web broadcasts, as well as hundreds of hours of labor to catalog these songs, could all incur hefty costs.

Organizations including the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, Collegiate Broadcasters Inc., and College Broadcasters, have all expressed objections to the proposed fees and some have pointed out that web broadcasting is the only way for some college stations to exist as traditional methods are too costly.

Von Ohlen stated that, in addition to the current financial benefits of web broadcasting, the convenience and accessibility of online radio was also a great advantage. He noted that the online version of WLFM offers individuals outside of the traditional broadcast range the only opportunity to listen and that currently many people do just that.

The decisions on the proposed regulations will be made by James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, and are expected soon.

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