Nearly 200 local commercial regional radio stations will cease online simulcasts of shows over the internet by midnight today after being asked to pay for a separate licence fee, says Commercial Radio Australia (CRA).
The extra fee is a result of the Federal Court ruling in February last year that internet simulcasts of radio programs fall outside the definition of a “broadcast” under the Copyright Act and are therefore not covered by existing licences to commercial radio networks.
After the ruling the Copyright Tribunal ordered broadcasters to apply for an interim simulcast licence by the end of today.
CRA’s CEO Joan Warner told Mumbrella: “This is a major issue for the radio industry, it’s an issue where record companies want stations to pay twice if listeners choose to listen online to an exact simulcast of a broadcast, nothing is changed, there’s no additional advertising, there’s no different advertising, it’s an exact simulcast.
“The whole industry is concerned by the potential cost of the scheme that the record companies are proposing to pursue legally.”
The suit was taken to the High Court by the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) – acting on behalf of artists and music labels – who demanded the second fee.
In its judgment, the court concluded that when a radio station provides a simulcast of its standard AM, FM or digital broadcast, it is a separate communication to the public when examined under the definition of “broadcast” under the Copyright Act 1969 .
The Copyright Tribunal ordered broadcasters to apply for an interim simulcast licence by midnight tonight to enable them to legally continue to simulcast their broadcast online.
But if the PPCA is successful in getting its scheme endorsed the CRA fears “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”.
“The interim scheme isn’t the issue, the issue is what are we going to be hit with once the record companies pursue this as they have been doing aggressively through every legal avenue,” Warner explained.
“We don’t pay an extra fee when people listen on a car radio or on an FM chip in a phone or in a clock radio. So the industry as a whole believes its not fair that we pay an extra, and higher fee just because some listeners find it convenient to listen online.
“Some local stations did not simulcast because of this issue, they were concerned months ago about the liability,” Warner said.
Grant Broadcasters, chose to cease providing an online simulcast in September last year.
Local commercial metropolitan radio stations are reviewing their position on a weekly basis and also may switch off in the future.
Record companies contacted by Mumbrella were unable to provide comment at the time of publication.