- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

Radio stations throughout the country are shelving their webcasts until a dispute over talent compensation between an actors union and advertising agencies is resolved.
People hoping to listen to a newscast from WTOP, a District all-news radio station, are greeted with this message: "WTOP, like most major radio stations nationwide, has been forced to suspend online streaming due to a dispute between national ad agencies and unions. We are working very hard to find a way to legally restore our audio stream during this dispute."
Ad agencies say they never gave the stations permission to broadcast their ads over the Internet, and they should not have to pay for the radio stations' unauthorized use of their ads. The agencies demanded that radio stations stop webcasts that include advertising until it is determined who should compensate actors in those ads for the extra air time.
Ira Shepherd, a District of Columbia lawyer who represents the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, said his clients should not have to pay the fee because they are not responsible for unauthorized ads that are aired on the Internet.
"For unauthorized use, we believe we aren't responsible. We didn't move over the commercials, and we had nothing to do with its broadcast over the Internet," he said.
In October, ad agencies signed contracts with members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). The contract stated that if a radio station aired a commercial using an AFTRA member, the ad agency would have to pay the actor at least $220 per use. The contract also stated that if the same commercial is aired on the Internet, the ad agencies would have to pay an additional 300 percent, or at least $660, to use the commercial for one year, according to AFTRA spokesman Dick Moore.
Radio stations across the country say ad agencies have forced them to withdraw webcasts from their Web sites. Now they are looking for a solution to continue broadcasting legally over the Web.
"The best solution for right now is to just take it down," said Jim Farley, vice president of news and programming for WTOP. "But we're working on something to have the commercials deleted from our webcast."
Other stations are holding off on starting webcasts until the dispute is resolved.
"Right now it doesn't make any sense from a legal and financial standpoint to do streaming until a fee structure has been worked out with a number of organizations," said Randy Palmer, spokesman for Clear Channel Communications, a San Antonio radio broadcasting company with nearly 1,200 radio stations nationwide.
"Negotiations are under way, but I think we'll stay on the sidelines for now."
According to the AFTRA Web site, the rate for Internet use of an ad is a discount compared with traditional rates, which can go up as high as $1,317.40 per use.
Mr. Farley said he hopes the problem is resolved quickly.
"No one wins from this. Advertising clients no longer get additional exposure, AFTRA doesn't get their fees, and the radio industry is ticked off because we're disappointing its listeners," he said. "In some office buildings, you can't hear AM or FM stations. Webcasting is not an opportunity to make money, but to reach listeners."

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