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Originally published July 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 10, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Save Internet radio

Sunday could be a dark day for Internet radio. A new royalty structure begins that will wipe out the small budgets of many Internet radio...

SUNDAY could be a dark day for Internet radio. A new royalty structure begins that will wipe out the small budgets of many Internet radio stations.

This assault on one of the last escapes from bland commercial radio could be avoided if Congress acts on a bill introduced by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island. It should be an easy vote for Congress, if it is concerned about democracy. The new rate structure will silence voices on the Internet that have been squeezed off the consolidated radio dial. What makes the rate structure imposed by the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) so unseemly is that it was suggested by SoundExchange, the entity that collects and distributes royalty fees.

The new system increases Internet radio royalties by treating the stations like download services. Stations will now have to pay more for every song played, then multiply that fee by the number of people listening. The current structure has performers being paid every time a song is played.

The rates are also retroactive to January 2006.

The new fees are not about paying artists, who should be properly compensated. This is about SoundExchange and the corporate giants that dominate the music industry, controlling what is heard and the channels through which music is delivered.

Small Internet radio stations will not be the only casualties. Public broadcasting stands to lose a vehicle that broadens its reach. Many public broadcasters use the Internet to complement their radio news programs.

These Internet identities, which have given life to music that has a tough time finding a home on commercial radio, would surely be jettisoned in favor of content on the dial.

If Congress is serious about a healthy democracy, it will strike down the CRB's rates, and allow for a diversity of voices to be heard through the Internet. The time to act is now.

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