Banned From Radio?

The musicFIRST Coalition has filed a complaint with the FCC claiming some radio stations have yanked a top-selling, unidentified band’s new single due to the group’s lead singer speaking in favor of radio stations paying royalties to artists and labels.

Not familiar with musicFIRST? The coalition is lobbying Congress to reconsider prior legislative decisions allowing radio stations to play music without paying royalties to artists and record companies.

For almost as long as radio has played music, Congress has taken the position that the music industry and radio have a quid pro quo arrangement of sorts, with radio giving artists promotional exposure by playing their music in exchange for labels giving music to radio stations to play.

But times change, especially in the music biz. With Internet and satellite radio outlets already paying royalties to artists and record companies, musicFIRST is trying to persuade Congress to apply that same principle to terrestrial radio. The group’s latest success happened in May when the House Judiciary Committee approved the Performance Rights Act (H.R. 848).

Of course, the radio industry isn’t all that keen on paying money for playing music. The National Association of Broadcasters says it amounts to a tax on radio stations that would cost thousands their jobs.

But back to the band some radio stations have reportedly banned. In its filing with the FCC, musicFIRST claims stations have dropped the band’s record in retribution for the group’s lead singer publicly supporting the Performance Rights Act, although at press time no one was going on record as to which group it is.

Many media outlets are pointing at U2, mostly because Bono issued a statement in April supporting musicFIRST’s efforts to make radio pay for playing music. After all, U2 is undeniably one of the biggest bands in the world, and musicFIRST did describe the group in its filing with the FCC as “top selling.”

The filing also alleges other artists supporting the Performance Rights Act have been treated unfairly by stations in Florida, Delaware and Texas, and accused the broadcast outlets of putting their own financial interests above their obligations to serve the public. The filing seeks an investigation.

MusicFIRST also accuses a Delaware station of boycotting for an entire month all artists involved with the coalition. It alleges a Texas radio station pressured an artist before an interview to go on the air and state the Performance Rights Act would cripple radio stations.

There’s no law stating anyone has a right to have their music played on the radio. However, if radio stations, which are licensed by the government to use the “public” airways, have purposely made decisions not to play certain artists due to their viewpoints and public utterances, then the issue moves into areas of free speech and constitutional rights. And you can bet there are more than a few laws dealing with those subjects.

New iPhones Cometh

It was only two years ago when Apple dominated headlines as the Cupertino company ramped up to deliver its brand new cell phone to a waiting market.

Remember the news stories, those videos of people lined up days before the iPhone made its debut at an Apple store near you? Remember TV reporters having to resort to cardboard cutouts resembling the iPhone because Steve Jobs wouldn’t comp them the real thing? Remember Stephen Colbert using his TV show – Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”– to beg Jobs for a free iPhone?

That was two years ago, and folks who scooped up the first-generation iPhones all have something in common besides bragging rights to being the first on their blocks to own 2007’s gadget of the year. Their mandatory two-year user contracts with AT&T are about to expire.

So it made good sense for Apple to introduce a new iPhone at its recent software developers conference.

The new iPhone 3G S looks like previous iPhones, but the resemblance is only skin-deep. Not only does the handset come with a faster processor, but it includes features users have been screaming for, including a video camera, a better photo camera with auto-focus and longer battery life.

Prices are cheaper than two years ago as well. The new 3G S sports a $199 price tag for the 8-gig model while the 32-gigger is priced at $299. Compare those prices with the initial $499 for the 4-gig iPhone in 2007 or its $599 8-gig big brother and it’s clear Apple has priced its new phones a bit more competitively than in years past.

Furthermore, Apple isn’t taking last year’s iPhones off the market. The company introduced its then-new 3G iPhones in July 2008, priced at $199 for the 8-gig and $299 for the 16-gig. But with the new 3G S iPhones shipping this month, last year’s models have new price tags – $99 for the 8GB and $199 for the 16GB.

Along with new iPhones, Apple is also updating the iPhone operating system, scheduled to be available for download June 17. Among the new features will be the ability to download movies and TV shows using the device’s cellular connection. Other new features of the OS include the ability to block, cut and paste text.
Aside from Apple introducing new iPhones at the same time many of its previous iPhone customers’ two-year plans with AT&T expire, the company also had another reason to beef up its iPhone brand – Palm Inc.’s Pre.

The Pre, which is a Sprint exclusive through the end of the year, has a touch-screen and a slide-out keyboard and is priced competitively at $200 with a two-year service plan and a rebate.

With many critics claiming the Pre is a much better smart phone than Apple’s iPhone, Sprint hopes the new handset will help the company regain some of the customers it lost to other services during the past 18 months – 1.1 million during 2008’s fourth quarter and 1.25 million during the first three months of 2009.

Perhaps one of the most in-demand Pre features is one Apple has yet to include on its vaunted iPhone – the ability to open more than one application at a time.

As every iPhone user already knows, applications on Apple’s most wonderful gadget can be opened only one at a time. If you find yourself needing to check the calendar while playing a game, you have to shut the game down before opening the calendar app.

But Pre is a multitasker, which could tip the scales in Palm’s favor among potential customers trying to pick their first smart phone. Or for smart, phone-savvy customers wanting something better.