Tariff a strip off campus radio

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A new tariff could ruin campus radio stations across the nation.

The Copyright Board of Canada has certified Tariff 22, a new decision based on a proposal from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

Although it is still undecided whether the tariff will apply to certain forms of radio " including commercial broadcasters, the CBC, community broadcasters " online music services, such as iTunes and Puretracks, will fall under the tariff’s terms.

SOCAN collects royalties from music providers and distributes the fees to the music writers and publishers it represents. It has been lobbying for the new tariff since 1996.

If it is determined community radio falls under the tariff, campus radio stations airing SOCAN’s music would be forced to pay at least $1,080 for each year they have had music online since 1996.

Previously, SOCAN negotiated different agreements for each individual contract, but now the tariff sets a standard rate for all online music services.

Anne Godbout, director of legal services at SOCAN, thinks the new tariffs could be beneficial for some music providers.

“It makes it easy for people who are building a business to see what the cost is going to be.”

Tristis Ward is a member of the National Campus and Community Radio Association’s advisory board and station manager at CHSR at the University of New Brunswick.

“If the Copyright Board agrees with [SOCAN], ... that could certainly cause some radio stations to go bankrupt,” Ward said.

Ward explained SOCAN’s proposal groups together many non-commercial broadcasters with commercial music providers.

“We behave very close to how a charity behaves. We’re not in here to make any money and that is completely ignored.”

“They think about the commercial sector and forget about the little guys,” Candace Mooers, president of NCRA, agreed.

Campus radio stations currently pay SOCAN 1.9 per cent of their gross operating costs per year for their FM broadcasts.

Since any music campus radio stations stream or upload onto their websites is a copy of their FM broadcasts, Ward feels the tariff would be charging them twice for the same thing.

He hopes the Copyright Board will not decide the tariff applies to them. But Mooers doubts the results will reflect such wishes.

“[The Copyright Board] seems to have sided with SOCAN against virtually every other argument.”

94.9 FM CHRW is a member of NCRA, but Alicks Girowski, music and promotions director of CHRW, sees the logic behind SOCAN’s proposal.

“The internet is a different media ... it expands the artist’s representation outside our [FM] broadcast range.

“Why wouldn’t we want the artists to get paid if we’re playing their music online?”

Girowski acknowledged CHRW is in a better financial position than many campus radio stations.

“It’ll effect us, but maybe not as much as other radio stations that have a smaller budget.”

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