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“Clearly, you have an industry that does not want to have new voices coming onto the airwaves.”
—Bill Kennard, FCC Chairman, on NAB-distributed discs simulating interference by low-bandwidth stations
NAB RUNS INTERFERENCE
Broadcasters’ Group Throws Down On Net Fees, Low-Bandwidth
The brave new world of Net radio has hit litigious waters.

The advocacy group National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed suit Monday (3/27) against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), seeking a declaratory judgment excusing radio stations’ Net entities from being charged fees in excess of the standard blanket compulsory license usually granted to radio outlets for transmission of copyrighted content.

The particular point of contention here is Net versions of broadcast stations, which offer streaming simulcasts of their sister stations’ programming over the Web. The NAB contends, in article 10 of its complaint, “No additional license is required for an FCC-licensed radio station to stream its over-the-air signal simultaneously over the Internet."

The RIAA has, the complaint points out, made numerous efforts to exclude simulcast streams from the standard license granted to broadcast signals. Such activities are, of course, consistent with the organization’s attempt to protect its copyright turf with respect to any distribution of music on the Web.

NAB, meanwhile, attempted to guard its own turf by campaigning against a pending Congressional lottery granting licenses for low-bandwidth radio stations. To that end, the organization bombarded D.C. politicos with CDs that simulated what the airwaves would supposedly sound like with 10-100-watt stations in the mix; needless to say, the discs paint a chaotic sonic portrait, filled with interference and cross-talk.

It’s also, according to FCC representatives, a false portrait. “It is a misrepresentation of the engineering facts,” asserted Chairman Bill Kennard. “Clearly, you have an industry that does not want to have new voices coming onto the airwaves... And that doesn't just go for Dr. Laura, either.”

The battle lines on this one have created some strange bedfellows, with National Public Radio lining up with major broadcast chains against religious groups and left-wing musicians. Apparently, the NAB’s tactics are making inroads with Congresspeople, further raising tensions with the regulators.

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