Hundreds of radio stations are under intense scrutiny by the FCC for their alleged involvement in payola scams in an investigation that commissioner Jonathan Adelstein calls "potentially the most wide
Hundreds of radio stations are under intense scrutiny by the FCC for their alleged involvement in payola scams in an investigation that commissioner Jonathan Adelstein calls "potentially the most widespread and flagrant violation of FCC rules in the history of American broadcasting."
ABC News reported on Thursday (Feb. 9) that in addition to criminal prosecution, broadcasters found in contention could lose their broadcast licenses. The story expands on a piece that ABC News broke as part of a "Primetime Live" segment on the TV network.
"The FCC staff is working with voluminous evidence right now. It's a complicated and wide-ranging investigation." Jonathan Adelstein told ABC News. "We've never seen evidence of such a systematic betrayal of the responsibility of broadcasters."
The investigation stems from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's probe that began in August 2005 of violations by Sony BMG and Warner along similar lines. "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.
Adelstein said that Spitzer has shared a massive amount of information with the FCC and has identified specific documents and e-mails that clearly implicate some of the companies controlling radio in the United States. Nine radio companies have received subpoenas from the attorney general: Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Entercom, Emmis, Citadel, Cumulus, Cox, Pamal and ABC.
"The FCC has received an unbelievable amount of evidence from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer that there appears to be widespread and flagrant violation of FCC rules regarding payola, (including) undisclosed promotions by radio broadcasters. And we need to find out who did it, basically prosecute any violations to the fullest extent of the law," Adelstein said.
"I can't believe that radio stations are putting their licenses at risk. It seems to me they thought the FCC was asleep and they shot someone in front of the policeman. The policeman is obligated to act when evidence is so clear," Adelstein added. "We have a responsibility to get to the bottom of this and It's important that the FCC does its job and not let the states do it for us."
Spitzer noted, "I would be the first to acknowledge that I would like to see the FCC more directly involved in addressing what is very clearly a payola scandal that has run rife through the industry. They have failed to do so and we have reached out to them."