Net radio bill passes House

Legislation, which Web radio stations have said could mean life or death for their services, will move on to the Senate. Traditional radio stations have dropped opposition.

Update at 7:28 p.m. PDT: Quotes have been added from the National Association of Broadcasters on why it no longer opposes the bill.

Web radio stations live to fight another day.

The House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that Web radio stations have painted as life or death for their services.

The Webcaster Settlement Act, which would allow Internet radio stations to negotiate with the music industry for a royalty rate lower than what Congress mandated last year, passed the House by a voice vote on Saturday.

Proponents of the bill had predicted a close vote.

Tim Westergren CNET News

Tim Westergren, founder of Net music service Pandora, said he was elated about triumphing in the House, which came after traditional radio broadcasters withdrew their opposition.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said Saturday night that Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) had met with representatives of the group and addressed some of their concerns.

As a result, the NAB dropped its opposition in the House and will not oppose the bill when it moves to the Senate for a vote, either Sunday or Monday (I've written a story about the bill's chances in the Senate and how the NAB was persuaded to drop it's opposition).

"The bill having passed unanimously in the House certainly gives it momentum heading into the Senate," Wharton said.

Webcasters are fighting for the right to negotiate with the music industry to reduce the royalty rates they must pay to stream music over the Web. Any deal must be approved by the federal government.

Congress is expected to adjourn on Monday, and the Webcaster Settlement Act enables Internet radio stations to reach an agreement with the music industry while Congress is out of session.

Westergren, who has emerged as a de facto spokesman for the bill, said some Web radio stations can't afford a long delay in the talks. Right now, the law requires them to pay the older royalty rate, which Webcasters say will soon drive them out of business.

"It would be a killer blow," Westergren said. "If we don't get it passed now, it would mean waiting for a whole new Congress and administration and lots of uncertainty."

As for the legislation's chances in the Senate, Westergren said he's cautiously optimistic.

"I've become gun shy because I've been burned so many times before," he said. "We're waiting to see what happens and consulting with our friends (in Congress)."

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

Hot on CNET

The Next Big Thing

Consoles go wide and far beyond gaming with power and realism.