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October 8th, 2002

Bye Bye, Net Radio

I tend to listen to radio via the Internet at work. I don’t have an actual radio here, as most of the stations I listen to have streaming broadcasts: our NPR affiliate (WBEZ) and our classical music station (WFMT), for instance.

But all of that is about to change. WFMT announced that starting Monday, it will no longer broadcast on the Internet. What is doing it in? The same thing that has done in hundreds of other stations: a law that enforced the idea of paying royalties on top of existing royalties.

Indeed, the other day I was flipping through the RealGuide (RealPlayer at work – I know, I know) and where there were once hundreds of stations… there are now, maybe, a dozen or two. There are only a few broadcasting out of Chicago now, and there were many more.

This type of restriction gets my goat. The labels want to continue to get a bigger piece of the pie, and that eliminates any homebrew or small-time broadcasters (including WFMT, which is a public station.) That means in order to do anything creative, one has to have a lot of money – and that philosophy right there is very anti-Internet. And even though a compromise was reached to allow “small” broadcasters to pay less, it’s still a ridiculous money grab.

The interesting aspect is that the majority of Internet folks in America – those using AOL – might not even notice that net radio is going away. After all, AOL is a rather large company and has enough moolah to run its own radio stations without a hitch. These folks might not even know that Joe Somebody out of Freeport, RI, was running a fantastic radio station that beat anything Clear Channel could ever do… until the fees killed him.

The message from Congress is clear, though. You’ve got to have a lot of money, and if you don’t, tough luck.

Posted in Technology

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