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U.S. Government Mulls Radio Probe

Testifying yesterday (Jan. 30) before the Senate Commerce Committee, two federal lawmakers said they believe Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission should inves

Testifying yesterday (Jan. 30) before the Senate Commerce Committee, two federal lawmakers said they believe Congress, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Communications Commission should investigate charges against radio giants such as Clear Channel Communications (CCC), Billboard Bulletin reports.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said such companies should be probed for allegedly implementing illegal "pay for play" schemes and denying airplay to artists who do not agree to play company venues. Feingold and Berman told committee members they have been inundated by complaints from artists, small radio owners, and indie promoters about CCC's allegedly bullying behavior.

Many Republicans on the committee took the stance that deregulation of the radio industry has produced positive marketplace results. Sen. John Ensign (R-Wy.) called complaints about CCC's activities "sour grapes."

However, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) distanced himself from his Republican colleagues and grilled CCC chairman/CEO Lowry Mays, asking repeatedly if the company has rules forbidding intimidation, retaliation against artists, and pay-for-play. Mays said no such behavior is allowed. "We have zero tolerance for pay-for-play," he said. McCain is expected to sign on to a bill Feingold reintroduced this week that would investigate charges of anti-competitive behavior.