Washington, DC (July 25, 2006)–Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held its first hearing on broadcast audio flag legislation and whether technological innovation and content protection could co-exist. Clear Channel Radio EVP/chief legal officer Andy Levin told lawmakers that approving audio broadcast flag legislation would stifle the HD Radio rollout.
Speaking on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters, Levin noted that after nearly 15 years of research and development, 800 stations have effectively rolled out high-definition digital radio. There are 1,200 more stations that will convert to HD at a cost of $100,000 per station. The radio broadcasting industry plans to spend $400 million in the next two years to promote the services and should audio flag legislation be enacted, HD Radio would be negatively impacted.
The broadcast flag system is a technological method to mark content as copy-protected and involves the formation of rules that classify how devices must handle flagged content (restricting or allowing certain uses like multiple copying or playback).
Other witnesses participating in the hearing were RIAA president/CEO Mitch Bainwol, Stewart Harris of the Songwriters Guild of America, and Ruth A. Ziegler, deputy general counsel of Sirius Satellite Radio. Both RIAA and the Songwriters Guild argued that illegal digital downloads are siphoning profits from the record labels and negatively impacting the lives of artists and that Congress should intervene. They believe Congress should make terrestrial radio, satellite radio and the receiver manufacturers agree to a technological solution to prevent consumers from disaggregating and manipulating songs recorded off of HD Radio or satellite radio, distributing content and re-distributing content.
Broadcasters have consistently taken the position that their services should not trigger an additional payment and that the recording and storing are fair use, permissible home recording and time-shifting for later listening; the device manufacturers pay a royalty to creators for the recording.
Clear Channel Communications, Inc.