ContractsProf Blog

Editor: D. A. Jeremy Telman
Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I Am Shocked, Shocked to Learn of Payola

Adelstein But it seems to be true.  According to Wikipedia, "payola" is a practice whereby record companies pay radio stations to play specified songs.  The practice is illegal if the payments are undislosed.(see 47 U.S.C.ยง 317).  Apparently, this practice is quite widespread and was going on even before I got grounded for playing my Kiss records too loudly (and spitting fake blook on our new shag carpeting).  Accordingly, the reason you cannot get that Milli Vanilli song out of your head may not be its inherent tunefulness and their extraordinary vocal talent.  It may be that some record label paid the radio station to play the same song over and over until you danced yourself into a coma and awoke to think that you actually enjoyed it.

Although nobody is admitting any wrongdoing of course, four radio broadcast companies, Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp., have tentatively agreed to a settlement with the FCC.  According to media reports (like this one), the radio companies will pay $12.5 million and reserve 8.400 half-hour segments of air time for independent artists in order to counteract the effects of "payola."

Who really benefits from this deal?  FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein (pictured above), that's who!  Fox News reports that Adelstein is himself an amateur musician and "has been in the forefront of the payola fight."  According to the AP, Adelstein complains that "payola gets in the way of authenticity because money drives the music, not its quality."  Uh-huh.  Very nice, Mr. Boo-Hoo, the radio stations won't play my indie band's music.  He'll change his tune when we are all forced to listen to the latest single from Johny A and the Commissioners.

[Jeremy Telman]

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