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Holidays good to Radio with FM translator window, streaming rates/waivers

The Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays brought considerable cheer to Radio as the FCC moved forward on its AM Revitalization plan and the NAB and Copyright Royalty Board clarified some provisions of the CRB’s mid-December announcement regarding cuts in streaming rates.

AM Revitalization

Just before Christmas Eve, the FCC announced filing dates for the translator modification application filing windows for AM stations.  The first window – January 29 through July 28 – is reserved for Class C and Class D AM stations.  The second – July 29 through October 31 – is open to all AM stations.

The windows will allow an AM licensee to buy, or arrange to program, an FM translator and move it up to 250 miles to a location from which it can be used to rebroadcast an AM station. 

In some such moves, the applicant can change the translator’s channel to specify operations on any vacant frequency in the area where the station plans to operate so long as that translator doesn’t interfere with existing broadcast stations. 

Applications will only be accepted to move translators or translator construction permits in the commercial part of the FM band, 92.1 MHz (Channel 221) and above.  Attention to detail when completing these applications is crucial as only one translator application can be filed by any station.  If applications are incorrect or deals to buy a translator collapse, the station will not get a second chance.

Streaming Rates/Waivers

When the Copyright Royalty Board last month announced streaming rate reductions from 25 cents to 17 cents per 100 plays of a song to a listener, they failed to address “performance complement” waivers that NAB, on behalf of broadcasters that stream, had obtained from various record labels as part of a 2009 settlement with SoundExchange.

The CRB likely didn’t address the waivers because they don’t have the right to do so; only the copyright owners themselves can do so and such waivers must be negotiated directly.

The waivers were set to expire Jan. 1, but the NAB on New Year’s Eve announced that Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have agreed to a one-month waiver to allow them time to craft a longer term agreement.  Warner Music has agreed to a nine-month extension through the end of September.  They continue to work with A2IM which represents many independent labels.

The performance complement limits webcasters in certain ways primarily to discourage copying of the digital music played by webcasters.  It requires that webcasters not play more than two songs from the same CD in a row, not play more than three songs by the same artist in any hour, and not play more than four songs from the same artist in a three-hour period.

Under the waivers, commercial broadcasters can ignore the performance complement if done in the context of a simulcast of a routine over-the-air broadcast.

The week before this announcement, the CRB also corrected its streaming rate revision to clarify that webcasters affiliated with schools but without an FCC license will not be blocked from operating or see an increase in their streaming rates.

Stations with questions about streaming programming should contact station counsel to learn about the eligibility requirements and responsibilities of streaming under the statutory license.

Questions? Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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