Download or listen to today’s 30-minute Digital Crossroads HERE. If you are short on time, but want to know what’s happening , you can also listen to a shorter segment (7:30) highlighting the Local Community Radio Act and ongoing webcasting royalty disputes HERE.
Today’s Digital Crossroads includes headlines covering: minority representation lawsuits against Arbitron, a study showing the payola agreement hasn’t helped independent music, Radiohead’s new pressure group Featured Artists Coalition, the FCC and indecency headed to the Supreme Court on Election Day, and torture music royalties might be owed by the US military for reportedly playing a David Gray song “Babylon” repeatedly at Guantanamo Bay during torture and interrogation.
The features include a look at the Radio for People Coalition, the Local Community Radio Act, and the ongoing webcaster royalty disputes.
Arbitron sued for underrepresentation of minorities-
New York Times writer Brian Stelter reported October 6th– The office of New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo announced they are suing Arbitron, the company that compiles audience ratings, because of concerns that minority listeners are not being fairly represented. The new ratings system relies on hand-held devices called portable people meters or PPM, which Attorney General Cuomo’s office says do not adequately account for young African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as all people who do not speak English, and cellphone-only households. Ratings for some minority broadcasters dropped considerably during the past year of testing the people meters, which a coalition of minority broadcasters claims would “disenfranchise minority communities and have a devastating impact on small businesses.”
According to the Associated Press– after the state of New Jersey filed a similar suit against Arbitron, the radio ratings service company filed a countersuit in U.S. District Court, claiming the attorneys general are interfering with the rollout of the PPM. Digital Crossroads will continue to follow this story, which has big implications for minority representation on the air.
Future of Music Coalition says payola settlement has not helped independent music-
Radio trade publication FMQB wrote October 21st– The American Association of Independent Music and the Future of Music Coalition have released results of a study demonstrating that 92 percent of independent labels report no change in their relationships with commercial radio since the FCC a year ago signed agreements with four major commercial radio broadcasters (CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Entercom and Citadel) that was supposed to increase independent music on the radio. Then Attorney General Elliot Spitzer’s high-profile payola investigation led to an agreement by the big radio conglomerates which has reportedly not increased access or cooperation beyond a few isolated instances. Future of Music Coaltion Executive Director Ann Chaitovitz said “This report represents important groundwork to ensure that radio is accessible to local and independent artists and serves its local communities. By documenting the historic and ongoing barriers between commercial radio and independent music, we help ensure accountability and hopefully create more favorable conditions for independent artists and labels.” You can download the full study, available HERE.
Radiohead has joined the Featured Artists’ Coalition-
Ian Youngs reported October 3rd on BBC News that UK pop stars are taking action to gain ownership and control of their work from record labels. Radiohead, The Verve, Robbie Williams, Klaxons and dozens of other acts have joined a new pressure group called Featured Artists’ Coalition. Their aims include keeping the rights to music they create and fair compensation when their songs are sold in new ways. As power shifts in the increasingly digital music industry, many acts feel ignored when their record labels and music publishers strike new licensing and publishing deals.
Does US Military Owe Torture Music Royalties?
According to The Guardian– David Gray’s song “Babylon” is allegedly one of the most popular torture songs at America’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to reports, loud music is being used by Americans during interrogation of suspected terrorists. David Gray is not happy about it, telling BBC– “No one wants to even think about it or discuss the fact that we’ve gone above and beyond all legal process and we’re torturing people… It doesn’t matter what the music is, it could be Tchaikovsky’s finest or it could be Barney the Dinosaur… We’re talking about people in a darkened room, physically inhibited by handcuffs, bags over their heads and music blaring at them… That is nothing but torture.”
The question Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired Magazine has been asking– is whether the Bush administration owes royalties on the song reportedly played on heavy rotation, not that the song itself constitutes torture, he points out. “Arguably,” Van Buskirk writes, blaring “Babylon” over and over “constitutes a public performance and conceivably makes it subject to royalties owed ASCAP and BMI, companies that collect royalty payments on behalf of musicians.” The issue may get resolved soon after the Presidential election as Barack Obama, John McCain and several third-party candidates all want to shut Guantanamo down. Still, as outlandish as this may sound, remember the royalty collection agencies squeeze money out of nursing homes, hospitals and prisons in the continental US already.
Radio For People Coalition
One year ago, after many years of anticipation, The FCC lifted a freeze on applications for full-powered, noncommercial (NCE) radio licenses between October 12 and October 22, 2007. During those ten days, more than 350 local community groups across the country applied for frequencies on behalf of community radio. NCE frequencies, which reside on the FM dial between 88.1 MHz and 91.9 MHz, are granted to American citizens by the federal government as a public trust at no cost.
“This is the last free spectrum,” said FCC attorney John Crigler, who helped community radio applicants. “and this filing window will have social consequences. It is a last opportunity to have a fight about values and how public spectrum ought to be used.”
Radio for People is a national coalition for promoting and supporting grassroots independent media. They are independent groups, lawyers, radio engineers, radio stations, free media advocates, professional associations, social justice activists, and many other concerned folks who have joined together in anticipation of the upcoming FCC noncommercial license application window, to encourage the creation of more independent community radio stations. They made the case that the application window was an important one-time opportunity, believing that a significant number of the radio licenses made available should be used for local community radio.
Key members of the Radio for People coalition:
Common Frequency is a group of dedicated individuals with backgrounds in college and community broadcast media, determined to facilitate more public access to the airwaves. They alert non-profit and educational institutions regarding broadcast application opportunities, encourage public participation in radio broadcasting, promote a diversity of viewpoints on the public airwaves through the airing of grassroots-produced public affairs programming, promote music education and independent artists on non-commercial radio, and provide resources and consultation to new stations in areas of station constructing and governance.
Free Press is a national nonpartisan organization working to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates, and to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system with a strong nonprofit and noncommercial sector.
Future of Music Coalition
The Future of Music Coalition is a not-for-profit collaboration between members of the music, technology, public policy and intellectual property law communities. The FMC seeks to educate the media, policymakers, and the public about music / technology issues, while also bringing together diverse voices in an effort to come up with creative solutions to some of the challenges in this space. The FMC also aims to identify and promote innovative business models that will help musicians and citizens to benefit from new technologies.
National Federation of Community Broadcasters
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) is a national alliance of stations, producers, and others committed to community radio. NFCB advocates for national public policy, funding, recognition, and resources on behalf of its membership, while providing services to empower and strengthen community broadcasters through the core values of localism, diversity, and public service.
Pacifica Radio Network
Pacifica Radio Network is the oldest noncommercial radio community radio network in the United States. Pacifica Radio founded the concept of listener-sponsored community radio and has championed free-speech broadcasting since 1949 and remains commercial-free, free-speech radio. Today the network includes 120 community, college, low-powered, public, and Internet radio stations.
Pacifica’s mission is to promote peace and justice through communication between all races, nationalities and cultures. They strive to contribute to the democratic process through public discourse and promotion of culture. Unbeholden to commercial or governmental interests, we recognize that use of the airwaves is a public trust.
Prometheus Radio Project
The Prometheus Radio Project is a non-profit organization founded by a small group of radio activists in 1998. They believe that a free, diverse, and democratic media is critical to the political and cultural health of our nation, yet they see unprecedented levels of consolidation, homogenization, and restriction in the media landscape. They work toward a future characterized by easy access to media outlets and a broad, exciting selection of cultural and informative media resources.
Public Radio Capitol
Public Radio Capital’s (PRC) mission is to strengthen and expand public radio services in communities nationwide, so that people have greater program choices for in-depth information, unbiased news, diverse music and cultural programming. PRC is supported in this mission by grants from the Ford Foundation, Surdna Foundation and other generous contributors.
Since its founding in 2001, Public Radio Capital, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, has secured public radio services for over 22 million people nationwide. In its role to broaden the reach of public radio, PRC is the industry’s leading advisor in planning, acquiring and financing new public radio channels. PRC provides public radio organizations with business planning, consulting, station appraisals, brokerage, acquisition and financial advisory services.
Also in this 30-minute radio show I talked about the Local Community Radio Act, which could lead to 1000 new community radio station frequencies opening up if it passes Congress. See Prometheus and Free Press for more info.
Who Gets Cash, Who Gets Airplay: (Hint- not the little guy)
And finally, with big help from Kurt Hanson the man behind the Radio and Internet Newsletter, I try to demystify the ongoing webcaster royalty negotiations. OK, So who’s who in the long-running dispute over Internet Radio royalties? Kurt Hanson, the author of RAIN has some answers–
He writes, “One reason for the Internet radio royalty mess is that, in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998, Congress set up a spiderweb of groups with multiple conflicting priorties that are supposed to somehow come up with reasonable rates.” Hanson is talking about Copyright Owners like Major Labels and Indie Labels, Rich Musicians and Working Musicians, and their negotiating body, Sound Exchange. Then there are the Copyright Users, such as the National Association of Broadcasters, the Digital Media Association, National Public Radio member stations, college broadcasters, religious stations, and small commercial webcasters. The Copyright Users must pay the Copyright Owners for streaming music over the Internet to the public. The ongoing negotiations over how much money is a fair amount take place before the Copyright Royalty Board, who work for the US Copyright Office.
Kurt Hanson writes, “The Webcaster Settlement Act is written to allow private negotiations between Sound Exchange and various subsets of webcasters to have the force of law.”
However, there are internal conflicts on each side of the negotiations. On the webcaster side, the National Association of Broadcasters sees itself as competing with Digital Media Association members like Pandora and with NPR member stations. Meanwhile, small commercial webcasters are working with bigger groups like AOL Radio to bring down the rates, but the bigger webcasters do not necessarily like competition from the little guys, so they do not support a small webcaster rate as actively.
Then you have the Copyright holders. SoundExchange is comprised, according to Kurt Hanson, of 50% record label representatives and 50% musician reps. Indie labels are competing with the big 5 multi-nationals for radio airplay and consumer dollars. They may be more inclined to support Internet radio than large labels, who want to protect their dominance on old fashioned AM and FM radio. Musicians, too, have conflicting priorities. Multimillionare recording artists like Mariah Carey want cash now, whereas hundreds of thousands of working musicians want airplay to build their fan bases. Hanson points out that multimillionaire musicians who are still active like Paul McCartney want airplay, whereas retired musicians like Mary Wilson of The Supremes would prefer cash.
Copyright law is primarily supposed to support active musicians, but the way SoundExchange is set up, the little guys on both sides of the negotiations are at a disadvantage.