Full-on federal investigation expected.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein says Elliot Spitzer has given the Federal Communications Commission "an arsenal of smoking guns" to amp up federal payola enforcement.
Reacting to Monday’s settlement between the New York state attorney general and Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Adelstein tells Billboard Radio Monitor he has asked Spitzer for "everything he’s got" so that evidence uncovered in New York’s pay-for-play probe can be evaluated for possible federal violations.
An outspoken advocate for heightened payola enforcement, Adelstein says an email trail now exists to justify a full-on federal investigation.
"These same exact practices are explicitly prohibited by the Communications Act, including criminal violations that would be handled by the Justice Department," Adelstein told Monitor. "People haven’t been willing to come forward." It took an attorney general’s subpoena power to “blow the lid off a potentially far-reaching payola scandal . . . Now it’s incumbent on us to enforce our rules and conduct a thorough investigation of each of the allegations."
FCC protocol calls for it to investigate and act upon complaints filed at the agency. Federal payola rules were recently posted on the FCC Web site, along with instructions on how to file a complaint. Although he expects to receive complaints based on the settlement, Adelstein says the magnitude of potential federal violations warrants an immediate investigation and potential enforcement action.
“What we have here for the first time are emails documenting the reasoning behind this,” Adelstein said. “We no longer have to guess what was in the mindset of people, we can actually see it.”
> For full coverage on the Sony BMG / Spitzer settlement visit Billboard.Biz/spitzer.