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NPR calls for Congress to create "common public media waiver"

As we’ve reported, National Public Radio has been filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission a lot these days, talking up its localism initiative, Android app, and new mobile site. NPR’s latest commentary to the FCC on its National Broadband Plan reiterates all these points. But here’s the paragraph in the filing that got our attention:

Rights: Copyright laws, especially those relating to music, have become highly complex and confusing, causing significant difficulties for public media entities striving to expand and improve their public service offerings to a growing audience on multiple platforms. While it is widely recognized and accepted that content creators have undeniable rights, attention must be given to the use of content for public service by public media entities. In a general sense and for purposes of simplification, Congress needs to consider the creation of a common public media waiver enabling the use of music regardless of distribution platform.”

Doubtless you’re wondering what this “common public media waiver” would look like, detail-wise. Sorry folks. That’s all NPR has to say about the matter in this document. But it’s no surprise that NPR might have some issues here. As the service points out, radio listeners download NPR podcasts over 15 million times each month and its new mobile device site gets 4.5 million views a week. So we’re talking about a shifting array of royalty challenges on every conceivable platform—terrestrial, Internet, and mobile. That can’t be much fun.

Then there’s some vague language suggesting that NPR would like to spend more of its Corporation for Public Broadcasting money on web based initiatives, at least that’s one way to read it:

“Any effort to increase funding for public media must include a re-examination of and
changes to the outdated methods currently used for distribution of federal funds. While maintaining scrupulous adherence to transparency and accountability, and while maintaining funding support for existing stations serving their communities, flexibility must be provided to use public funds for deeper, expanded and more responsive local and regional information needs. Exploration and adoption of digital, web-based content creation and distribution assets, for example, are essential components of a public media construct that meets the needs of today’s America.”

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