Regional radio stations pull online streams due to licensing issues, metro stations might be next

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Image: Fod Tzellos/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Fod Tzellos/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Within a couple of weeks, you might not be able to listen to your favourite radio stations online. After being unable to come to a new licensing agreement with the music industry, nearly 200 regional radio stations will end their live simulcasts with all metropolitan stations threatening to go dark as well.

The stations – represented by Commercial Radio Australia – join Grant Broadcasters in ending their radio simulcast. Grant Broadcasters, which own 50 radio stations across the country, ended their streams in September.

The issue stems from a Federal Court decision issued in February last year that ruled that internet simulcasts did not meet the definition of a “broadcast” under the Copyright Act, and therefore not covered by the existing licence.

This meant that radio stations will need to have a separate licence in order to play music on any internet simulcast, and at market rates. Previously, radio broadcasters were able to use the “one percent cap” in the Copyright Act to minimise their royalty payments to just one percent of gross income.

According to Commercial Radio Australia, broadcasters are ending their streams today because they were ordered to apply for an interim simulcast licence by January 31 and they fear that the simulcast fees might be “back dated” to the start of the licence.

“Should the PPCA (the peak music body) be successful in having the Tribunal endorse their preferred high cost scheme, radio broadcasters are concerned that simulcast fees may be back dated to the start of the interim licence and the financial liability amassed by radio stations would be cost prohibitive, particularly for regional stations,” according to CRA.

While it is unlikely the ABC and SBS will switch off their online simulcasts, it is unknown what community radio stations will do.