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Day-of-silence protest hits Net radio

Stations battle royalty hike

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On Tuesday, more than 10,000 U.S. web radio broadcasters will participate in a nationwide "day of silence", canceling their usual programming in protest of an impending royalty hike that threatens to put most of them out of business.

Members of the SaveNetRadio coalition - including everyone from Yahoo! to WebRadioPugetSound - will either shut down their stations or broadcast public-service announcements urging listeners to support a repeal of the new royalty rates.

In March, the U.S. Copyright Royalty board laid down new rules that would require broadcasters to pay $0.0008 each time a song is played – retroactive to the beginning of 2006. According to Jake Ward, a spokesperson for SaveNetRadio, this amounts to a 300 per cent rate hike for even the largest stations. By 2010, the per-play rate is scheduled to hit $0.0019.

The first bill comes due on July 15, and as the date approaches, SaveNetRadio is battling the new rates in Congress. Next week's day of silence is an effort to gain support for the coalition’s Internet Radio Equality Act.

"Though we're calling it a day of silence, a vast majority of the stations will air announcements urging listeners to call their congressional representative and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation we've introduced in the House and the Senate," Ward says. "Nothing but silence doesn't mean all that much."

The Act seeks to introduce a royalty model similar to the one used for satellite radio. Broadcasters would pay based on revenue, rather than per song.®

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