Saturday, April 01, 2006
RADIO STATION OWNERS NEGOTIATE PAYOLA SETTLEMENT!
The nation's biggest radio broadcasters are in discussions with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve accusations that station programmers accepted improper payments from record companies in exchange for playing specific songs, officials involved in the talks said last night.
But the talks have stalled on questions about how much money the companies — Clear Channel Communications, CBS Radio, Entercom Communications and the Citadel Broadcasting Corporation — might have to pay to settle the case, said these officials, who insisted on anonymity because the talks are at a delicate stage.
Clear Channel, which operates about 1,200 stations and is the industry's biggest player, has been pressing for the agency to agree to a range that would place its financial penalty at $1.5 million to $3 million, according to a person involved in the talks. F.C.C. officials had balked at its earlier offers of $500,000 and $1 million, the officials said.
If the two sides do not come to an accord, the agency is expected to start a broad investigation into the payments and request internal documents and e-mail messages from the radio chains.
The companies are trying to avoid the expense — and potential embarrassment — that could arise from an investigation.
The potential stalemate in the settlement talks comes as the F.C.C. has been criticized by the New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, for failing to police the radio stations. Mr. Spitzer's office has been conducting an extensive investigation of improper payments — known as payola — in the music industry, and has publicly released reams of internal documents from both record and radio companies illustrating the payments made in exchange for airplay.
Kevin J. Martin, the head of the commission, has said its enforcement bureau would thoroughly investigate accusations of payola.
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