Radio switches off the net

Radio 2AY’s Mark Taylor says stations can’t afford to pay artists twice for their music. Picture: TARA GOONAN
Radio 2AY’s Mark Taylor says stations can’t afford to pay artists twice for their music. Picture: TARA GOONAN

A DISPUTE over charging radio stations extra to stream songs through the internet has prompted Border AM and FM commercial outlets to stop web broadcasts.

The Border’s 2AY, 105.7 The River and StarFM have not been available online since Friday, joining Wangaratta’s 3NE and Edge FM. They went offline late last year.

The action follows a fight between Commercial Radio Australia and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia. The company wants stations to pay new fees for playing songs on the internet simulcast of their broadcast.

The row could drag on until August, meaning 2AY Ovens and Murray football broadcasts would not be streamed.

The boss of 2AY, Mark Taylor, yesterday met member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, and urged her to raise the matter with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“If you look at it in terms of cost, we can’t afford to keep the streaming on and have to pay twice,” Mr Taylor said.

Commercial Radio Australia chief executive Joan Warner said under the plan, stations would pay a base of $25,000 a year and fees for each listener, stream, track and listening period.

“Not only would the scheme impose a second and higher fee, it would require radio businesses to incur significant costs for the sophisticated system needed to comply with it,” Ms Warner said.

PPCA chief Dan Rosen said a final rate had not been determined and he did not know the basis of the $25,000 figure.

“We want a fair and reasonable rate. It’s very disappointing commercial stations in regional Australia have decided to turn off their simulcasts,” Mr Rosen said.

He said his organisation had offered a simulcast fee of $312 a quarter for regional stations while awaiting a Copyright Tribunal decision.

Mr Taylor said stations feared agreeing to an interim fee opened them to backdated bills.

“We’re saying in this day and age, whether they listen to 2AY, StarFM or 3NE, people have the right to listen on whatever device they want to,” Mr Taylor said.

“It’s 2014 — you don’t have to plug the tranny in the corner of the office and muck around with the aerial.”

But Mr Rosen said songs should not be treated differently than the AFL or cricket which have digital broadcasting rights.

“The billion dollar commercial radio industry has enjoyed the advantages of expanding online by simulcasting broadcasts, but has ignored its obligation to recompense those who create content they rely on,” Mr Rosen said.

Ms Warner does not expect a tribunal hearing until at least August and hinted commercial stations would face a special fee to fund the legal fight.

Ms McGowan said Mr Taylor had made a strong financial case and she would now write to Mr Turnbull, stating her concerns.

“I do feel for the artists but I don’t think this is the right way to do it,” Ms McGowan said.