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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Reason Behind Why Internet Radio is Down These Days

Is it RIP for Singapore internet radio?
By Mayo Martin, TODAY | Posted: 11 March 2009 0940 hrs

SINGAPORE: She lives in China, yet it’s a family of familiar voices from Singapore that have kept Jennifer Seah informed and entertained.

For the past two-and-a-half years, the Singapore housewife, whose husband works in Shanghai, has been tuning into MediaCorp’s Internet radio streaming service which has been online since 2000.

“It’s wonderful to be able to tune in to familiar voices from home when you are abroad,” she told Today. So she was very disappointed when, earlier this month, most of the Internet radio streamed out of Singapore suddenly went offline.

The reason: It is going to cost broadcasters thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars each year in licence fees depending on the number of stations they operate.

After an amendment to the Copyright Act in December, broadcasters here have been locked in talks with the Recording Industry Performance Singapore (RIPS).

RIPS is the collective licensing body of 13 record companies that issue licences to broadcast music. The new fees come at a time when the global economy is in turmoil and advertising, the lifeline of media companies, has been badly impacted.

A MediaCorp spokesperson explained to Today that, previously, radio stations were exempted from paying record companies when the songs played over the Internet were part of a radio simulcast, but now this exception only applies to broadcasts over the airwaves.

“The service will be resumed if we can come to an agreement with RIPS,” said the MediaCorp spokesperson. “We have received feedback from Singaporeans tuning in from overseas as well. The public have been concerned and requested to know the reasons behind the cessation.”

So far, MediaCorp’s 18 radio stations as well as Safra Radio’s two stations — Power98 and 88.3JIA FM — have stopped their Internet radio streaming service.

Sources told Today that SPH UnionWorks, which operates Radio 91.3 and Radio 100.3, is still in talks with RIPS and has a few more days to reach an agreement on the new licence fees. Mr Jamie Meldrum, 39, programme director for Radio 91.3 declined to comment, citing the fact that negotiations were still ongoing.

In the United States, the debate over royalty fees for online radio streaming has raged for years with commentators lamenting that the fees will one day kill Internet radio. A day Mrs Seah hopes she will not witness. “I hope the streaming service will come back soon and be even better,” she said. -TODAY

Is it RIP for Singapore internet radio? [via]

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