This weekend we reported that several Internet broadcasts of classical music had ended without explanation.
A Webmaster (who asked to remain anonymous) for a 50,000-watt FM radio station in the U.S told MacCentral that, until recently, they too had a couple live streams of their broadcast on the Web, with fans from across the globe tuning in. However, they ran into difficulty when ASCAP and BMI (the artists’ organizations to whom radio stations pay royalties to broadcast their clients’ recordings) started pressing the issue that online streaming broadcasts were a “separate broadcast.”
“Even though it is the same signal originating from our tower, they wanted a separate amount for the licensing of the online broadcasts, effectively doubling the amount we pay, for a product that we derive no profit from,” the Webmaster said. “We obviously could not afford this, so we dropped our in-house Real stream. WarpRadio, a company that had lured virtually every radio station we’ve ever heard of into streaming live, in exchange for advertising, was streaming a Windows Media Player stream, and was to pay our ASCAP/BMI royalties for the stream.”
He said that also had to stop, when WarpRadio revised their terms, stating all but the top 100 stations would now be forced to pay for the privilege of having their signal streamed. Apparently, they also ran into problems with ASCAP/BMI, he added.
“I believe our situation is not unique, and this may be the reason Internet radio has gone so quickly dark,” The Webmaster said.
MacCentral reader Robert Hargate said that AFTRA the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and BMI’s demands were based on the reasoning that Internet streams were being broadcast to the world instead of their local area. The companies that were negotiating with AFTRA, such as Clear Channel thought they could negotiate with them, but the union is not bending, he said.
“The companies that were broadcasting aren’t necessarily pushing the issue, since they are now right back to where they were before these broadcasts existed,” Hargate said. “They don’t see that they have necessarily lost any business. So instead of saying this, they are putting the issue back on the union, saying simply that they thought the issue would of been resolved by now.”
AFTRA contracts, which are entered into with each production session, are very specific regarding the use if its member’s work — exactly where the product will play, how long it will play, etc. Although many announcers in larger markets are AFTRA members, Larry Bastion said he suspects that the greater problem lies with commercials
“They do have a point,” he said. “Streaming radio content essentially makes any station a national — worldwide, really — broadcaster. If I create a commercial designed for a local market using AFTRA talent, with fees adjusted for that limited use, net-streaming that commercial extends its range to the entire world. This probably wouldn’t matter much with a commercial for my local transmission repair shop, but when a national brand is mentioned it becomes in a sense a national commercial, even if inadvertently.”
And it’s not just classical music that’s affected. It’s about all real-world radio stations that want to simulcast on the Internet.
“When these broadcasts stopped, I was disappointed that I could not hear major league baseball from Southern California ( I live in Denver),” Hargate said. “But I was told that the whole market is changing and Major League Baseball for one has negotiated a deal with Real Networks to broadcasts games for a fee. This issue won’t be resolved until everyone who loves Internet broadcasts calls and e-mails the stations and their parent companies to let them know that they have lost an audience.”
Darrell Moore said the issue might be even more complicated. The Actors Guild union recently put through a demand in their standard contracts that all actors (including those doing voiceovers) should receive additional payments if their work were broadcast on the Internet in addition to the radio (or television or whatever). This prompted all advertising agencies to immediately start demanding that broadcasters pull their commercials out if the program they were advertising on were re-broadcast on the Internet, Moore said.
“The stations have no technical way to do this — so they stopped the re-broadcasting altogether,” he added. “This is a terrible thing for the Internet. But who’s the greedy party? The actors (for wanting more money) or the advertisers (for refusing to pay)? As long as nobody pays for Internet radio, there is no mechanism to compensate the artists.”
MacCentral reader Mitchell Hill sent us the following, which he said is a typical message that you may receive from a radio station. This one is from a Wilmington Delaware station he listens to:
“Delmarva Broadcasting Company is committed to providing our community of web users with great content and great service. That is why we sincerely regret that we have been forced to discontinue the regular Webcast of our over-the-air programming. For the past 5 years DBC has provided web users with the opportunity to access our programming. Now, however, the demands placed on us for additional, unreasonable fees by the Recording Industry Association of America, the music performance rights organizations, the advertising industry, the performers unions and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have forced us into this position. Our decision was not reached without considerable thought and discernment. Representatives of the radio industry are working with all parties concerned to settle these issues and it is our hope for a quick resolution that will allow us to resume broadcasting on the Internet as soon as possible. If you would like to voice your concern about these issues, please contact: the National Association of Broadcasters, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and/or the Recording Industry Association of America.”
On the other hand, some MacCentral readers report they’re having no problems with picking up classical or other music on the Internet. John Harris said he gets most of his classical station URLs from live365.com. Gordon Sande said that the WQXR folks have said that their Internet broadcasts are back. Meyer Barembaum reported that WFMT is also broadcasting, as is KMZT in LA, though only between 9 am and 6 pm. Gene Feierstein said that the answer to most people’s problems could be found at https://www.whro.org.
“The Hampton Roads area of Virginia (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Newport News and Hampton) has what is arguably the best classical public radio station in America,” he said. “WHRO broadcasts classical music 24/7 and may have the largest library of recordings in the country. The rest of the public radio lineup can also be accessed through this site at WHRV. Just go to the link and click on the ‘Personal Public Radio’ button.”
Others report that WCPE has just added MP3 streaming to its existing streams in QuickTime, RealAudio, and Windows Media. And the station is conducting a survey about the use of each. It currently shows an overwhelming preference for MP3.
WCLV in Cleveland reportedly continues to stream high quality MP3 files that play perfectly with iTunes. And Gord Hildebrand of Great Plains Productions even reports that a site called Beethoven.com has recently been enhanced to include support for Mac users.
“They play some wonderful stuff, allow requests, dedications etc and even offer e-mail accounts,” he said. Others still broadcasting classical music on the Internet, according to MacCentral readers, include WGBH.
Dan DeRyckere said that on the Classical Music Detroit site, you can just click on the “click here to listen” button and the music will open in Windows Media Player. Also, on the Michigan Radio site, you can click on the Listen Online “classics” button to end up here and the music will open in Windows Media Player, he added. Unfortunately, it seems that several stations are using Windows and Real software and leaving QuickTime out of the loop (although, of course, there are Mac versions of Media Player and Real Player).