The Return of Payola?

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    Curious what local radio folks think of broadcast companies seeking to take paid content disclosures off the air.

    Andy Brown

    Payola never really went away.

    Federal law permits stations to receive payments for programming if they acknowledge on the air that they were paid. But, over the years, broadcasters and record labels have been punished periodically for not following the rules. Starting in 2003, an investigation by the New York State attorney general uncovered wide evidence of corruption, with record companies offering gifts like vacations and sports tickets as bribes for playing music.

    “It was no longer like it was in the Alan Freed days, when people delivered cash,” said Bob Donnelly, a longtime music lawyer, referring to the early rock ’n’ roll D.J. whose career unraveled with the first major payola crackdown in the early 1960s. “It was now much more subtle.”

    In a series of settlements with the state, major record companies paid more than $30 million, and in 2007 a group of broadcasters — including Entercom and Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia — paid $12.5 million to settle claims with the F.C.C. The broadcasters also agreed to consent decrees governing their behavior, which expired after three years.

    from the linked article

    Since this consent decree has expired, these huge companies do not want to shell out again for violations of the rules so they are trying to have the rules changed. I do not know if they have any active complaints in process at this time.

    Clearly these groups, already the fundamental reason almost all of broadcasting as a public service is dead, are attempting to circumvent any responsibility for transparency in the programming they air. In essence, they already operate this way using accounting tricks and secrecy to avoid the scrutiny of the executive branch (FCC, FTC) and various investigative committees in the legislative branch that they don’t already have in their pocket.

    It’s outrageous. No wonder nobody listens to the radio anymore.


    From what I’ve read, almost as many people listen as always have but “time spent listening” is down. You wouldn’t really expect it not to be with all the other available options.

    Andy Brown

    You’ve only further proved my point. There are more people, more radio sources, more ways to listen and still, it is “almost as many” and less “time spent listening.”

    Add to that the intangibles like how close are they listening (paying attention) and how involved are they with the listening experience (nowhere near as much as evidenced by the inability of automation and voice tracking to interact in real time with the audience) and the result is, as I said, nobody is listening.


    Why are you guys behind on this issue. tunegenie can be used as a great tool for those who wish to receive payola.

    Does it work, of course. Are those who are paying getting their monies worth, of course not. As has been posted here radio and television viewing has dropped by more than 50% over the past two decades, but the cost of advertising keeps on creeping up.

    Thousands of businesses have invested money into this medium because the head of their marketing departments are baby boomers. As the GenXers start taking over marketing departments, good bye radio.

    Andy Brown

    There exists, in our country, a chasm between the perceived problems of payola (paying under-the-table for radio airplay) and the actual problems of payola.

    The actual problems of payola—or rather, the problems with how major labels, radio stations and independent promoters operate within U.S. payola laws—are far more counterintuitive than you’d imagine.

    Indeed, within radio’s “many, many formats—not all formats, but certainly the higher-level formats—there is a quid pro quo going on,” said George.

    The quid pro quo comes indirectly: major labels have historically found a way to circumvent these laws through the use of independent promoters, or “indies” as they’re more commonly known (not to be confused with independent labels, or “indies” as they’re also more commonly known).

    “The indies are the shadowy middlemen record companies will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to this year to get songs played on the radio,” Eric Boehlert wrote in an article for Salon some time ago. “Indies align themselves with certain radio stations by promising the stations ‘promotional payments’ in the six figures.

    As a result, independent artists have found themselves “locked out of that system,” George Howard told me recently, “because the major labels—the ones…doing the quid pro quo—have the resources to do it on a regular basis, and they do it because it’s a good return on investment.”

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