Senator Prods Radio Conglomerates on Payola Compliance

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Just months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued payola-related penalties against US-based radio conglomerates, a prominent lawmaker is assuming the role of compliance cop.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis) recently mailed a letter to heads of several major station groups requesting detailed reports on anti-payola measures implemented.  The letters were specifically issued to CBS Radio, Inc., Entercom Communications Corp., Clear Channel Communications, Inc., and Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, all of whom signed detailed anti-payola agreements.

Among other remedies, the agreements called for the allocation of airtime for independent content, a measure designed to offer more exposure to less “radio-friendly” artists.  But reports of partial compliance, and the discovery of tilted deals that would force independent artists forfeit digital royalties, helped to stir the Feingold letter.  “I am concerned by recent reports that some Clear Channel stations are requiring the grant of a royalty-free right and license to the music upon submission,” Feingold wrote.  “As the debate surrounding the recent Copyright Royalty Board decision to increase the royalty rate for digital performances indicates, these rights clearly have value.”  Feingold threatened legislative remedies if voluntary compliance requirements were not adhered to.