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WBZ begins online streaming

Can you imagine receiving local news, traffic, and weather wherever you are? Even if you're traveling or stuck downtown, where an AM signal is usually cut with static? That accessibility, unhindered by obstacles or distance, was behind the launch of the online streaming of news-talk station WBZ-AM (1030), one of 12 Infinity news stations that began free webcasting last week. Entercom's local AM stations, WEEI-AM (850) and WRKO-AM (680), are expected to follow suit within the next few weeks.

For all 12 of the streaming Infinity stations, the March 14 launch was a success, says Ted Jordan, vice president and general manager of WBZ and sister station WODS-FM (103.3).

''It's been particularly popular here in Boston," he says. The participating Infinity stations include similar news outlets in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Of the dozen stations offering the service, WBZ had one of the highest number of listeners signing up, according to Jordan.

''For a lot of people who aren't used to getting an AM signal, it afforded them the opportunity to get a station that they couldn't before," he says.

And the advantages go beyond a clear signal. Soon, WBZ will use the technology to offer customized coverage. While the regular WBZ format calls for brief headline-only news, the web version will offer the opportunity to listen in-depth, Jordan says. ''Say you like hearing the piece of a press conference that we carry [on air]," he says. ''People who want to, can stay with the press conference" through a live link to the recording on the WBZ site. ''When we have a political figure on, you may be only be able to get 30 or 40 seconds [on air]. But [online] we can allow listeners to hear the entire interview."

Anyone who tunes into webcasts knows these Internet options aren't new, and that WBZ isn't the first local station to offer them. Stations ranging from Harvard's WHRB-FM (95.3) to modern rock WFNX-FM (101.7) stream. But it may start a renewed push toward the new technology: Streaming first became popular with the Internet boom of the '90s. But as stations began feeding their ''terrestrial" broadcasts directly into the new medium, two waves of legal questions dampened early enthusiasm.

The first, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, sought to determine performance rights for artists whose music was suddenly not only aired on a local radio station, but on a potentially global website. Even before the bill was finalized, many stations feared ruinous and retroactive, fees and pulled their streaming plugs. And in 2001, a dispute with the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists prompted more stations to withdraw as the talent union got involved in legal battles over royalties for acting work -- usually in commercials -- that went from local to global.

For that reason, the current webcasts tend to be slightly different from what you hear on air. WBZ, for example, is not streaming commercials -- though it may end up selling web-only ads. Entercom had been an early adopter that dropped out because of rights and royalty issues, and WEEI won't stream Red Sox, NFL, or NCAA tournament basketball games when it returns to streaming, says Jason Wolfe, Entercom's director of sports programming. Those games will be carried by the sports's own sites (such as, for major league baseball), although WEEI's sports talk shows will be streamed.

''Streaming [will] provide us an opportunity to expand our brand to those transplanted Bostonians that miss what's going on in Boston sports," Wolfe says.

Globe on NECN

Here's what's happening on ''Around the Globe" today on NECN:

12:30 p.m.: ''Globe at Home" -- Maureen Goggin of the Globe and professional organizer Erika Salloux offer pointers on packing for your next trip.

4 p.m.: ''Around the Globe"

6:30 p.m.: ''New England Business Day"

8:30 p.m.: ''NewsNight"

Schedule is subject to change.


2 p.m.: Globe handyman Peter Hotton chats about water heater sediment buildup.

Talk of the dial

8 a.m. WBIX-AM (1060) -- ''Stu Taylor on Business." Guest: former Red Sox star Rico Petrocelli.

Other radio highlights

Noon WUMB-FM (91.9) -- ''Live at Noon." Guest: John Schindler, New Hampshire singer-songwriter.

7 p.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Quantz's Flute Concerto in D; Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 3; Brahms's Serenade No. 1.

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