The Edge went silent

It was a day about silence. UAA’s radio station, KRUA 88.1 FM, joined webcasters across the nation as they shut down Web broadcasts in participation of the National Day of Silence protest.

The June 26 protest, a joint effort mounted by the Save Net Radio Coalition and Radio and Internet Newsletter, was against the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to raise royalty rates and institute a retroactive royalty payment owed to SoundExchange, an organization that collects royalties on behalf of copyright holders, by July 15.

An increase in royalty rates means a pay-per-performance fee and a retroactive royalty payment from all commercial webcasters from the beginning of 2006, according to the Library of Congress Web site. Noncommercial webcasters, such as KRUA, will pay a $500 flat-rate fee for all channels with up to 159,140 aggregate tuning hours per month.

Kerry Davis, the university’s student media administrative assistant, said that KRUA currently pays a $95 annual flat-rate fee through the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, which includes their membership fee to IBS and the costs for streaming music.

Caroline Willis, program director for KRUA, said it was in the radio station’s political interest to get involved in the protest. That is why she and Robert Stormo, sports director at KRUA, whose last day in the office was June 29, decided to shut down their Web broadcast, canceling three shows and all music streams. Regular radio broadcast continued as scheduled.

No budget decision has been made regarding the station’s ability to pay the increase in royalty rates. However, Willis said the station will shut down its webcast on July 15 until a decision is made.

Willis said that if the station loses the capability to stream music over their Web site, KRUA will lose a large portion of their audience, particularly outside of Anchorage. Having to shut down their webcast decreases the length of the radio’s voice.

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“It’s just taking a step back,” said Willis.

Fred Pearce, chair of the Journalism and Public Communications Department, said he agrees with copyright protection.

“The consequence of no copyright protection for created works,” he said, “is that artists wouldn’t create.”

Without protection and a reasonable royalty rate, artists, recording studios and production companies cannot make a profit, Pearce said. He had no comment on whether the decision made by the Copyright Royalty Board to increase royalty rates was reasonable.

KRUA’s regular radio broadcast will continue, and the station’s Web site retains the ability to make podcasts available for download.

“We’re still here,” Willis said. “Even if we turn (the webcast) off, we’re still here.”