The L.A. Times is reporting that the FCC is launching yet another probe into pay-for-play violations at radio stations around the U.S. There is part of me that is over joyed at the fact that something is finally being done, but I also have to hold my breath because there has been talk like this without any action before. Most of that has come from politicians and not the FCC, so I’m used to the hot air.
The FCC’s action comes amid New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer’s pay-for-play probe, launched in 2004, which has alleged wrongdoing by both music and radio companies. In February, Spitzer sued Entercom, alleging that high-ranking executives had implemented scams to trade cash for airplay of songs by such artists as Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair and Jessica Simpson.
Payola, plugola, or whatever you want to call it, these things happen every single day. Ever hear of record promoters? These are the players in the middle that skirt around those payola laws that resulted after Allen Freed went down for taking money to play music on his massively popular radio show in 1960.
Promoters work for the record labels, pushing music on radio stations for airplay. They’ll hook you up with free tickets to shows or other goodies just to get you to play their stuff on your airwaves. This is the music industry. Some of that seems warrented, at least in my mind. During my college radio days, we lived for free CD’s, free shows, keychains, posters, album flats, and so on.
Paying straight up cash is a whole different issue. Toss is big names, like ClearChannel, for getting kickback for playing artists and you start to see how the machine works. Major record companies create the pop sensation, package it up, and pay radio executives to smear said artist all over the “hottest” airwaves.
When you are apart of a large chain of corporate radio stations, the music you play is dictated by the hand of a supreme overlord that could care less about what you think the station you work at should be playing or what callers are requesting. This is why people say radio never plays anything good. They simply play what they want you to hear.
The last time the FCC took action on pay-for-play allegations was in 2000, when it fined two stations in Texas and Michigan $4,000 each for not disclosing payments received from A&M Records in exchange for playing songs by Bryan Adams.
See if this helps explains the next time you ask yourself, “why the hell are they playing this crap?”