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Saturday, March 25, 2006



The concentration of radio ownership has ushered in a new age of payola.
Huge recording labels pay off radio conglomerates to play their most bankable performers. Commercial "talent" is pushed to the top of playlists nationwide, shoving local artists off the airwaves. When labels pay big radio to play their most mainstream acts, independent music suffers and radio choice turns into a mind-numbing race to the bottom.
The FCC and New York Attorney General’s office are now investigating reported payola deals at large recording labels. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has also subpoenaed the records of nine of the nation's biggest radio station chains and filed a suit against one -- Entercom.
An ‘Arsenal of Smoking Guns’
Sony BMG and Warner Music Group have already agreed to pay more than $15 million for payola abuses after Attorney General Spitzer found they had funneled millions in money and prizes to radio broadcasters. FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told reporters that Spitzer gave the agency “an arsenal of smoking guns” to ramp up enforcement against payola broadcasters. Several days later, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pledged to do just that.
2005 investigations by the New York Attorney General office have implicated nearly 190 stations in illicit deals with recording giants Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. Most of the stations involved were owned by the biggest corporate radio conglomerates.
Investigations are still underway involving deals between Big Radio and other major labels. Click on the PAYOLA MAP (LINK BELOW) to find a station that is being investigated near you. Call the switchboard and tell the station manager that you are concerned about possible payola violations and will be monitoring their broadcasts to ensure that they follow the law and fulfill their obligation to serve the public.
The Future of Music Coalition (FMC) has announced its support for the recently revealed FCC investigations into payola allegations via a letter to the Commission. The FMC urges that the investigations be completed before any further rulemakings would be put into place that could allow further radio deregulation, or the granting of additional resources to commercial radio broadcasters during the transition to HD radio. "The payola laws are clear," said FMC executive director Jenny Toomey. "Stations that engage in this practice are putting their licenses at risk. What is unclear for musicians and citizens, however, is whether the laws will be enforced. We hope that the FCC will take the evidence gathered in numerous proceedings and by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer to fully investigate these practices and hold bad actors accountable." Furthermore, the FMC also stressed to the FCC that payola cannot be examined outside the context of the drastic consolidation in the radio industry under the 1996 Telecommunications Act. "We're at a critical point in the regulatory landscape," said FMC policy director Michael Bracy. "Congress is working on a revision to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC is about to re-start media ownership proceedings. Terrestrial radio stations just launched dozens HD radio stations in key markets. We need to make sure that the public airwaves are managed in a way that benefits musicians and citizens." If the allegations of radio payola were found to be true, the FMC advocates that the Commission should pledge to hold those responsible in the radio industry accountable and to take steps to protect and expand non-commercial radio, including low power FM. Furthermore, the FMC said that the Commission should not make any rule changes that could help aid in further consolidation in parallel media markets, including lifting the ban on broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership.


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