Friday, April 13, 2007

It's official: payola settlement is a done deal

The F.C.C. officially announced today that it has reached a settlement with a number of broadcasters over allegations that they were engaging in payola -- paying record stations to play their music.

The terms have been widely reported over the last month, but it's worth taking a look at some of the details again. To resolve the allegations, CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, Clear Channel Communications, Inc. and Entercom Communications Corp. have agreed to pony up $12.5 million and provide more than 4,000 hours of air time to local and independent artists. They will also face tighter regulations.

•Maintain a database containing a record to identify all items from record labels that exceed $25
•Maintain a company hotline for employees to call the Compliance Officer to obtain advice and report violations
•Appoint a Corporate-level Compliance Officer who is responsible to ensure compliance with the Consent Order, and all sponsorship identification laws
•Designate a Compliance Contact for each market
•Conduct annual training for all programming personnel and supervisors

Sure we would have liked more air time for independent artists, but all things considered this is a historic day in the fight against payola. Payola and radio consolidation have turned commercial radio into a bland, homogenized format that largely ignores independent musicians and whole genres of music such as jazz and bluegrass. This agreement signals a possible new direction for commercial radio and more options for radio listeners.

“Unfortunately, payola has become as common a feature of commercial radio as shock jocks and 18-song sets. It is an encouraging that the F.C.C. and broadcasters are working together to root out a problem that keeps deserving, independent bands off the public airwaves,” said Jenny Toomey, executive director of the FMC.

Here's a link to FMC's full press release.

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