Hundreds of radio stations are under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission in the payola scandal rocking the music industry, ABC has learned.
“The FCC staff is working with voluminous evidence right now. It’s a complicated and wide-ranging investigation.” FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
“This is potentially the most widespread and flagrant violation of FCC rules in the history of American broadcasting,” Adelstein said. “We’ve never seen evidence of such a systematic betrayal of the responsibility of broadcasters.”
Payola — or pay-for-play — is a practice seemingly as old as the recording industry itself. In the past the money went to rogue disc jockeys in exchange for increasing the airplay for individual songs and driving those songs to the top of the charts. In the modern version, the money goes to the bottom line of the radio stations and the conglomerates that own them, according to New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
“We have people in suits coming in with documents rather than cash payments under the table to a DJ,” Spitzer told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross.
Spitzer said record company documents obtained in the investigation of Sony BMG and Warner, both of which have settled with the attorney general, revealed payments for songs that became major hits, including Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Real” and John Mayer’s “Daughters.”
Other artists whose songs are named in the Spitzer documents include Jessica Simpson, Celine Dion, Maroon 5, Good Charlotte, Franz Ferdinand, Switchfoot, Michelle Branch, and R.E.M. The record companies allegedly paid radio stations to increase airplay of those artists’ songs.
Some of the above-mentioned artists are critics’ favorites, some most definitely not. Given the recent revelations about pay-for-punditry, however, one might reasonably wonder why critics champion certain recording artists who (at least to my ears) don’t merit the hype.
I’d assumed up til now that it’s only because I’m an old guy that I couldn’t feel the Franz Ferdinand magic.