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Our Readers Speak

Our Readers Speak

Aug 1, 2002 12:00 PM

Webcasting fees sacrifice learning

The copyright royalty rate determination released on June 20 by the Librarian of Congress provides virtually no relief for threatened college radio webcasters. The ruling leaves unchanged the principle fees previously recommended by a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel, or CARP, to be paid by noncommercial educational broadcasters. These new fees, which will go to owners of sound recordings, were created as required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

This most recent outcome is disappointing, but not surprising to college broadcasters. �While we realize that students and educational opportunities are not exempt from the copyright laws, the U.S. Congress has traditionally worked to craft legislation that allowed students a chance to learn new skills. The result of the DMCA does not meet with the historical legislative precedent,� said Warren Kozireski of the State University of New York-Brockport. Kozireski is chairman of Collegiate Broadcasters, Inc., a national organization representing college radio and television stations that has been representing its members in the controversy over the new webcasting fees.

Some college radio stations use Internet webcasts to extend their reach to new audiences. Other educational institutions have used webcast-only stations as the solution to scarce broadcast frequencies or extremely limited budgets. All college stations will suffer immensely under this ruling.

Radio stations receiving federal taxpayer funding funneled through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, many of them affiliated with National Public Radio, will have this new fee paid for them by that agency. CBI member college radio stations, unlike CPB-funded stations, will have to find a way to pay the fees from their students� pockets or from traditionally under funded academic budgets, or shut off the streaming audio, thus causing the college students to loose a valuable learning tool in the process.

Will Robedee, general manager of Rice University�s KTRU, said, �The real irony here is that these students are trying to reach an educational goal, yet the better they attain that goal of reaching an audience with diverse and educational programming, the more it will cost them in real dollars. There is no motive to succeed in an educational setting; what could be more counterproductive?�

Robedee created the �Save Our Streams� website to track the issue of these new regulations and fees, and the resulting impact on college radio stations ( A quick look at the SOS website reveals that the �death toll� is already alarmingly high. The site lists 30 stations that have ceased webcasting due to the new regulations. The casualties include KRCL-UT, WRMC-VT, WRSU-NJ, WERS-MA, KTSW-TX, WSUM-WI, WSTB-OH, WONB-OH, WXOU-MI, WZIP-OH, WUTK-TN, KDIC-IA, KETR-TX, WSBF-SC, KSDS-CA, WNYU-NY, WSUW-WI, WEVL-TN, WSRN-PA, KXCI-AZ, WUVT-VA, KBOO-OR, KSJS-CA, KDHX-MI, WPTS-PA, KBCS-WA, WMHW-MI, KBVR-OR, KXRJ-AR and WDWN-NY.

Still other stations that decided from the start to not stream their over the air signals are not pleased with the outcome thus far. This conservative stance taken early on does not mean their stations, student staffs, or listening audience haven�t suffered a loss. WMUL�s faculty manager decided not to stream his student station�s highly-acclaimed programming due to the uncertainty of royalty rates and accompanying regulatory requirements. �There is no telling how many stations such as WMUL-FM have opted to not stream their audio on the Internet due to the uncertainty of rates, retroactive fees, reporting requirements and content restrictions. It is a shame that the students were not allowed to reach a larger audience with their award-winning programming,� said WMUL�s Dr. Charles Bailey. Marshall University�s WMUL-FM has won 473 awards since 1985.

John R. Bennett, Director of Student Media at the Savannah College of Art and Design works with the students at SCAD radio, an Internet-only station. �If the fees remain outrageously expensive and the reporting requirements impossibly complex, we�ll be forced to shut down the station. Unlike other college stations that will simply pull their streams and go on broadcasting as usual, this will mean the complete elimination of our station. Web streaming is not an enhancement to our station. It is our station.� Ironically, stations like this will pay a rate three times higher than other college stations, because they have don�t have an FCC license. According to Bennett, obtaining a broadcast license is out of the question due to a lack of available frequencies. Bennett adds, �We have no central campus. Our 40 or so college buildings are arrayed throughout downtown Savannah. Therefore, carrier current or Part 15 broadcasting is an expensive and difficult proposition.�

Most ironic is that recording artists will also be injured. College radio has long been the venue where new artists have found their first broadcast audiences. Artists flocked to the friendly programmers of college radio in order to receive airplay, while commercial radio outlets have always been apprehensive to chance playing new music. Many of the same artists that owe their success to college radio are now effectively pushing those stations off the Internet with these new fees and oppressive regulations. As a result, the next generation of artists will have fewer opportunities to be discovered.

Robedee, who is also vice-chair of CBI, points out that what is here today could be gone tomorrow. �It is summer, and most of the CBI member stations are unaware of this problem. Station management will face a quick decision when they come back in the fall.� Even more troublesome is the future. Robedee explains, �Internet use doubles every 10 months. A station that can afford to webcast today might find itself with a bill that it can�t afford to pay 10 months from now. At KTRU we will have to carefully consider the future implications of this decision and make a decision now. It would seem to not make sense to encourage students to succeed if the outcome of their success, reaching a larger audience, causes them to be penalized with higher fees.�

The problem does not stop with fees going forward. Stations that have already been streaming audio on the Internet owe fees retroactive to 1998, when the DMCA was passed, with the bill coming due on October 20.

Robedee has been following this issue for some time. Because of his attentiveness and concern, KTRU has set aside money in order to pay the retroactive fees. �This is very troubling,� said Robedee, �Even though we have set aside enough money to cover the retroactive fees, we did so because we were aware of the issue. Stations had no effective formal notice of the fact that they might be liable for new fees. Even if the government or the copyright holders had informed stations, no one could tell us what the final cost would be. Stations that knew about the fee assumed it would be equal to what we must pay to composers for broadcasting. Now it turns out the recording rights fee is much more, and the composer fees for webcasting also exceed those for broadcasting! The audiences are smaller, the audio quality is poorer, and they want more money?�

Sandra Wasson of KALX at the University of California-Berkeley adds, �KALX might be able to handle the retroactive fees and pay the current fees due, but what about those smaller stations that can�t handle the retroactive fees? Are they to be required to shut down because the process did not provide them notification that they would be liable for fees at an undetermined rate?�

Concerning the future of KALX, Wasson continues, �While we are struggling with how to pay the retroactive fees, we are also threatened by the cost of reporting what we play.�

Wasson is referring to yet-to-be-defined requirements for stations to report data concerning the songs they play and how many people listen on the Web. �If the expense of recordkeeping exceeds the costs of the royalty, we will need to examine our ability to provide this service to the public.�

So what is it that college broadcasters are seeking? According to Joel Willer, a professor of mass communications at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, �All we are seeking is a means to continue to provide an education to our students in this emerging technology.�

Willer is the faculty supervisor for radio station KXUL. That station�s website has been honored with a first-place award and other commendation from the Broadcast Education Association.

�In short,� Willer continues, �what we need is a parallel to the copyright legislation covering our broadcast operations. This includes a flat fee, reasonable reporting requirements, and freedom to develop programming that is not restricted by content restrictions. With such a solution, we could compensate the copyright holders and proceed with our mission, which is to educate students and deliver diverse programming.�

Speaking for CBI member radio stations, Kozireski says, �We need emergency legislation from Congress to stop this process until legislators have a chance to fully examine the issue and enact an appropriate solution. We need to encourage the continuing development of the Internet at the very institutions where it began, at colleges and universities. We need to protect the education of our students.�

For more information, please contact Will Robedee at 713-348-2935.

Will Robedee
Vice Chairman, CBI
General Manager, KTRU

Not ready for prime time

This is a repsonse to Chriss Scherer�s editorial in the June 2002 issue of BE Radio.

On the AM implementation of PAC�I agree. I can�t see how they could be proud to demonstrate it at NAB, when clearly it still sounded �metallic�. The reality is that digital may not work on nighttime AM – a least in a hybrid mode. I did not find any AM broadcaster at NAB who was confident that it could, or who had any plans to revive music programming on AM.

Ironically, there are a large number of AMs which have such anemic ratings that the owners might be willing to jump straight to all-digital, once the receivers start becoming available.

If the FCC makes IBOC voluntary, it will die a similar death to AM Stereo.

If Ibiquity wants this to fly, they at least will have to drop the radio station licensing fees. Station owners are livid at the concept, much more than the actual dollars involved.

Michael D. Brown
Brown Broadcast Services, Inc.
Portland, OR

It�s all the same anyway

I have some comments on the satellite/terrestrial radio fued, as you asked for comments in the July 2002 BE Radio.

With the major incorporation of network radio already as well as automation, we�ve almost lost terrestrial radio anyway. Big deal that local commercials, tags and IDs are programmed so it sounds like it�s local when coming over a network. On AM I can tune in to many radio stations at night and hear the same broadcasts, only with a different commercial and ID. News is almost extinct locally, at least in the Reno., NV, area, other than (Citadel) KKOH-780 from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and for one minute after the top-of-the-hour network news. (Only two of the stations owned by Lotus Radio are live throughout the day and night otherwise, so once we are on network/local automation, the biggest thing we hear about the station is the endless ID tags and liners, such as KNHK 92.9, which often states twice between each song, �The NEW 92.9 The Hawk, rock and roll that rocks you�, or KODS 103.7,. with its, �You�re listening to the new Oldies 103.7, KODS, the number one station for playing all rock and roll oldies you love, with less talk….the River.�

No weather forecasts; rarely a remote anymore and when there is, it�s basically scheduled in like a commercial so they have to fit everything they say into an exact time period so it sounds totally fake and like a commercial anyway instead of a real remote since there�s no interaction that goes on; no way to call in to request a song since they don�t even advertise the network�s phone number (if the station is using a network rebroadcast) and no one answers when they are local automation since no one is there anyway.

What is the difference if we go to satellite or terrestrial anymore? With the two satellite services they have so many different programs/formats that though you may find a couple of channels that do play something other than the �safe� stuff that local stations have narrowed to anymore. They�ll all sound the same since the formats have to be quite narrow so they don�t overlap other formats. The only thing that may be better with satellite is that it [currently] doesn�t play the commercials and irritating constant IDs we have now on terrestrial.

Gregg E. Zuelke
Silver Springs, NV

Website necessities

After reading Managing Technology in the July 2002 issue (Websites That Work), I have a few suggestions for a station�s website.

Make sure that the station�s call letters (not just the nickname) and city are on the Web page. A listener should not have to call a station to get its Web address.

Larry Albert
Murray, KY

IBAC/IBOC: too little, too early

Well, from all the press releases, this IBAC/IBOC thing is the killer application for us broadcasters. Let’s dig a little bit and see what shows up.

Among the claims of FM IBAC/IBOC is that it sounds better than analog FM. 100kb/s? I don’t think so. Any decent analog FM station will sound superior to this gigantic bit loss audio transmission mode. What record company would be willing to send it’s latest single out down coded to 128kb/s? Yet, this is supposed to be better than analog FM. A simple statement: Most FM stations sound better than IBAC/IBOC.

Keep in mind that you will be using an MP3 type signal as your audio signature. Remember just one thing with any digital compression scheme. Once the bits are thrown away, you cannot get them back. 32kHz sampling for 16 bits times two channels is 1,024kb/s. This is what the average FM analog radio station is on the air with today. FM IBAC/IBOC is around 100kb/s. IBAC/IBOC is throwing away 90 percent of the bits that we use on the air today.

All of the demonstrations that I have seen with IBAC/IBOC have been with a direct CD audio source. How does the new algorithm work with existing digital compression audio sources at most stations? ISDN, Musicam, MiniDisc, MP2 and MP3, and how will it sound being driven by the digital satellite sources, with their very own way of dropping bits?

Has there been any reasonable amount of listening tests using transcoded material? Transcoding ( that is, more than one digital compression scheme), exists at most FM stations in the United States.

From my personal observation, the demonstrations of IBOC have been coming directly from a CD, with minimal audio processing. In the real world, the PDs will want that average audio level right up next to the peak. The press for the highest density audio will be present in IBOC just as strongly as it is now with analog FM. Ask Bob Orban or Frank Foti what happens to highly processed audio that then goes through any perceptual encoder. This automatic blend to analog will dictate that the digital audio stream will be as aggressively processed as the analog source. Again, how will a digital satellite source sound after industry standard grade level processing, then into the Ibiquity ten to one bit reduction scheme?

Another perpetuated strength of IBOC over analog FM is the elimination of multipath. Let me save the automotive manufactures a lot of money. Take a look at the German-built Blaupunkt radios, which use DSP decoding at the 10.7 MHz IF. The capture ratio hovers at 1db, as opposed to the 8 tp 10db of the average Detroit-designed automotive radio. Cut the capture ratio down to 1db and most of the multipath goes away. If Blaupunkt can retail these radios for $200, what do you think Detroit can build them for?

Let’s step sidewise and look at the highly touted AM IBOC. I will admit that I was oh so hoping for a solution for AM here. But, what was it, some 30 odd years ago that the FCC stopped licensing new AM daytime-only stations? Something about not serving the public? And now, IBOC AM is for daytime only? Should the FCC even allow this?

Let’s look at a parallel, HDTV. The TV broadcaster gets to decide how to utilize the bandwidth. But not the closed and to-be-paid-for technology of IBOC FM. The digital signal has to be a copy of the analog. We, the broadcaster cannot take the composite 150kb/s and use it the way we feel. Why can’t I decide to have one 50kb/s and four 25kb/s slots for audio? It’s not allowed under Ibiquity. And why? Follow the logic of the touted superior digital signal. When this superior digital signal fails, Ibiquity wants to have the receiver fall back to the inferior coverage of the analog FM. If the digital is so superior, why does it need to fall back to anything?

Let’s talk money. Ibiquity plans to extract money from the broadcaster three ways. First, they charge a six-digit figure to the Ibiquity exciter manufactors for the rights to build the exciters. Second, they then charge a per exciter fee. Last, they then charge the station a direct fee. As of today, it is one fee for life. Until Ibiquity asks the FCC for the entire RF mask, and dropping the analog FM signal. What will the fee be for that?

It was reported that Ibiquity has invested over $ 100 million dollars, and there was a quote that “Ibiquity deserves the right to get that money back.” Wrong. Ibiquity deserves the right to try to get that money back. Last I checked the words were “and the pursuit of happiness.” Why should the FCC guarantee any group the right to make money? Ask Magnavox how much money it made on AM stereo.

IBAC/IBOC, the high school experiment gone wrong, has been on the table for more than ten years. And yet, in the last few months, Ibiquity has changed to a new “better” compression algorithm. Why can’t we wait another decade and see what some students at MIT might come up with during their lunch hour?

I would like to throw out a challenge. At this year�s NAB Radio Show in Seattle, let’s have a van with an Ibiquity receiver and a $200 Blaupunkt digitally demodulated receiver. Audio source is identical, with identical preprocessing. Let the riders decide. If Ibiquity would really like to show the superiority if their product, they will build this van and put it on the road immediately. Schedule major markets, including those with multipath. Let’s just see how easy it is to say no to this unneeded “improvement.”

Here is the ultimate question. What benefit is IBAC/IBOC to any FM station, and to the consumer?

IBAC/IBOC: Pay more, get less.

Tom Bosscher
Grand Rapids, MI