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Modern Day Radio Payola

March 18, 2015

Not making the front pages of the newspaper, but needing to be known.  And as a former radio broadcaster, this is just interesting, too.

The proposal has been criticized by musicians and advocates for artists for weakening the prohibitions against payola, the practice of paying for a song to be played on the radio. These restrictions are meant to prevent corruption of the public airwaves by giving artists and record companies a fair chance of having their music heard.

“If this were to happen, it would seal the deal for commercial radio just being a closed system for large media companies to promote their products,” said Casey Rae, chief executive of the Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy group.

The concern reflects the continued importance of radio promotion even in the Internet age. According to Nielsen, an average of 258.4 million people each month listened to AM and FM radio at the end of 2014, up from 257 million the year before. Record executives frequently say that radio play remains the best way for a song to become a big hit.

Federal law permits stations to receive payments for programming if they acknowledge on the air that they were paid. But, over the years, broadcasters and record labels have been punished periodically for not following the rules. Starting in 2003, an investigation by the New York State attorney general uncovered wide evidence of corruption, with record companies offering gifts like vacations and sports tickets as bribes for playing music.

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