Trouble for internet radio services

Monday 20 May, 2019
Image: Shutterstock

 

Radio Tomorrow with James Cridland

There’s trouble for vTuner, the heritage company used by many manufacturers as an internet radio directory.
 
On May 1, vTuner’s service apparently fell over for eleven hours, and Fronteir Silcon, who used the vTuner service for their internet radio modules (used by people like Roberts, Grundig and others) switched just a week later to a different provider - causing great upheaval for listeners, since all their presets suddenly stopped working (and many products needed a firmware update). Bose’s products also have ceased using vTuner’s database, too.
 
Peter Johnson, vTuner’s CEO, posted quite a rant on the Bose websiterevealing that the company charged “.40 cents” per product to vTuner, that Tunein has “a pathetic database”, and ends by claiming “What these consumer electronic companies want is free no matter how bad the quality of the service is”, adding that it “now looks like I will need to close vTuner soon.”
 
That’s bad enough - but there’s also rather larger trouble for TuneIn, who provide an app (which I bet you have), as well as power smart speakers from Amazon and Google.
 
Sony and Warner threatened back in 2017 to take TuneIn to court in the UK for what they claim is copyright infringement, and if I understand correctly, that court action is taking place this week, with the record companies being assisted by IFPI.
 
The reported claim is that TuneIn is linking to hundreds of unlicensed audio streams - which could mean streams that simply have no licensing at all or could also mean out-of-area streams (many non-UK streams are audible in the UK, despite having no UK music licence).
 
Previous rulings by the European Court of Justice, which still governs UK law until at least the end of 2020, have said that providing an index to unlicensed content is a bad thing, hence why - for example - The Pirate Bay has been banned across Europe.

TuneIn’s own website is also pretty clear that it’s only legal to use TuneIn from the US (1c), and if you want to use it from outside the US, it’s up to you.
 
If this action succeeds, it probably means the closure of all of these services: and perhaps the end of cross-border internet radio listening overall.
 
There’s certainly trouble in the world of internet radio directories. iHeartRadio and Radioplayer, which are operated on the radio stations’ behalf, clearly offer a good option - but aren’t, yet, universal (either in terms of territory cover or stations included).
 
Perhaps this will please radio broadcasters, who wish to exert more control. But that will be bad news for radio listeners. It’s worth watching how this plays out: and, while internet is still a major part of radio’s future, there may be trouble ahead.
 
 
About The Author

James Cridland, the radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

Contact James at [email protected] or @jamescridland

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