Feds Fix Fines For Radio Friends

Payola in radio is an old story but, like everything else in the age of new media, it has been made over by technology and a regulatory environment that curtails competition. Now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is actively running interference for the radio corporations who have been playing the payola game.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accused federal regulators Monday of going behind his back to negotiate with radio companies caught in a “payola” scandal, and saying the move undercuts the case he’s been building for years.

The FCC’s efforts on behalf of corporate media giants like Clear Channel and CBS, seek to let them off the hook with fines of about $1 million. Spitzer’s settlements were in the $10 to $20 million range.

Payola is an insidious crime that benefits broadcasters and record labels at the expense of artists, particularly local and emerging artists that are kept off of the airwaves.

Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced legislation to crackdown on this activity, but it has yet to be considered. In the meantime, the FCC is helping their pals avoid the consequences of having violated the current laws.