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Spitzer Takes On Record Industry Payola 411

flackrum writes "NY Attorney General Spitzer has served subpoenas to four major record labels (UMG, BMG, EMI, WMG) in a continued house-cleaning of corporations employing dirty-tricks. In this particular group of cases, investigations are focusing on the circumvention of the Federal Payola Law, which forbids bribing radio broadcasters in return for airing specific songs. Mmm sweet karma."
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Spitzer Takes On Record Industry Payola

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  • by DARKFORCE123 ( 525408 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @07:59AM (#10597085)
    At least it is a step up from representing unpaid restaurant bathroom attendants .

    http://money.cnn.com/2004/10/08/news/funny/spitzer _bathrooms.reut/ [cnn.com]
    • If bush wins the election, you will see this case quietly vanish into the ether..

      if kerry wins the election... oh wait...
      • by FlopEJoe ( 784551 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:02AM (#10597572)
        "If bush wins the election, you will see this case quietly vanish into the ether.. if kerry wins the election... oh wait..."

        I've said it before, and I'll say it again... people put WAY too much weight on the power of the presidency. In candidate ads, news articles, /. posts, and conversations, I hear/read of all these magical powers that just don't exist. Bush should do something about X, Kerry will make the paralized walk. The president has power but there are other people in our government.

        Worried about the draft, pork spending, over/under litigation? Want more/less spending on aids, stem cells, drugs then? Talk to congress. They write and pass bills. The prez can veto but congress can battle that. If the current music business model is not working, then your congress-person should be pestered. If they thought stem cells are the cure and private funding isn't getting it done then there would be 100% backing in congress to ram a bill into Bush's lap.

        Republican or Democrat, the president is not a Mystykyl Majical being that can cure every problem in the country.

        • I've said it before, and I'll say it again... people put WAY too much weight on the power of the presidency.

          The presidency is a sporting event. People don't seriously expect the president to directly affect their lives for better or worse, they just want to see their favorite team win. If it were all about issues and results, nobody would take it nearly as personally as they do now.

        • by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @10:37AM (#10598527) Homepage
          I've said it before, and I'll say it again... people put WAY too much weight on the power of the presidency. In candidate ads, news articles, /. posts, and conversations, I hear/read of all these magical powers that just don't exist.

          Ahh, but you missed the most obvious way to put the lie to that statement. I give you the DOJ v M$ as a case in point. IIRC the judge who was supposed to rule, and we all expected the ruling to be against M$ from the public statements made (a definite no-no according to some), was replaced by a GWB puppet, with the expected results, business as usual for M$.

          So yes, the President can find a way, and the more circuituous that path back to him, the better its swept away, drowned out by the other public noises.

          Cheers, Gene
    • by wobblie ( 191824 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:04AM (#10597122)
      Just what the hell is wrong with that? That is his freakin job. You think people should not be paid for work?
      • by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:36AM (#10597342)
        I second that. I appriciate a good toilet joke but those people were really being abused (financially). If you've ever been in contact with one of them they are incredibly nice and it very uncomfotable to think they were being treated so badly. Kudos to Spitzer for taking on the big cases as well as the small. Spitzer may have political aspirations but he seems to be fighting the good fight in the meantime.
  • Loophole (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erick99 ( 743982 ) <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday October 22, 2004 @07:59AM (#10597094)
    This is how they at least try to do an endrun around the current Payola laws:

    Broadcasters are prohibited from taking cash or anything of value in exchange for playing a specific song, unless they disclose the transaction to listeners. But in a practice that is common in the industry, independent promoters pay radio stations annual fees - often exceeding $100,000 - not, they say, to play specific songs, but to obtain advance copies of the stations' playlists. The promoters then bill record labels for each new song that is played; the total tab costs the record industry tens of millions of dollars each year.

    Why wasn't this loophole simply closed up when it began?

    • by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:01AM (#10597103) Homepage Journal
      Radio stations would have to play what people wanted to hear.
      • Radio stations would have to play what people wanted to hear.

        That, or what you think, they ought to want to hear?

        • by Didion Sprague ( 615213 ) * on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:46AM (#10597980)
          That, or what you think, they ought to want to hear?

          Exactly. Excellent point. Whenever the subject of music comes up, you always get the freaky clove-smoking oddballs who claim that radio doesn't play OBSCURE BAND X. The implication, of course, is that OBSCURE BAND X on OBSCURE LABEL Y is objectively (no questions asked) "better" music than NOT-OBSCURE BAND A.

          And what usually happens, once the freaky clove-smoking oddball launches into the first attack, several additional attacks follow -- all of which list more OBSCURE BANDS from OBSCURE LABELS. Subtext here -- always -- is: gee, if only folks would listen to this music, we'd all be "better off".

          Most of the music -- from where I sit, at least -- listed is wretched. This is my opinion, of course, but for whatever reason, the clove-smoking oddballs don't seem to understand the idea of "subjectivity" in art. I don't either, but I pretend I do -- and by pretending, I'm at least making an effort at being charitable and understanding that usually the reason that obscure bands are on obscure labels is that the music isn't appealing to a large audience. It may appeal to a small audience, but the commercial potential probably isn't there. So, okay: fair enough.

          But I suspect -- and have no proof, of course -- that the only reason the clove-cig smoking oddballs list the obscure bands is to say, hey, look at me, I have distinct musical tastes and now this little band out of Idaho called the Blue Fonzies that plays *real* punk music, blah blah blah. I also suspect that the clove-crowd is pretty narcissistic and isn't able to think that, well, some folks *do* like Britney and Usher and Justin and that's okay. Personally, I don't -- I abhor the hip-hop stuff, yet (paradoxically) I have a hard time latching onto the Blue Fonzie-like bands from Idaho for (mostly) ideological reasons. They piss me off -- not tha band, but what band stands for -- and the sort of clove-cig smoking idiots that use art as ideology in order to drive home an uncharitable, narcissistic point that says nothing about the music industry, music in general, the band, or even the state of contemporary culture.

          It says: hey, look at me, I like the Blue Fonzies. Ergo, I'm hippy-dippy cool.

          • by sbma44 ( 694130 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @11:54AM (#10599405)
            I understand what you're saying about subjectivity. But you're acting like it's an absolute; that all bands are equally good since objective measurement is difficult or irrational. But that's not true. Subjective quality is not uniformly.

            You might have a real point if airplay correlated with album sales. But there are glaring exceptions. Look at Radiohead. Look at Steely Dan. Look at the Grateful Dead or Phish. There are lots of bands who aren't on the radio, yet have huge album sales. The issue is not radio reflecting the taste of phillistines; it's radio reflecting its own corporate ambitions, and intentionally shaping the preferences of the casual listener.

            As a person's devotion to music increases -- i.e., more time is paid to the hobby -- the overwhelming majority turns away from what's on the radio. They may turn to obscure country, or blues, or indie rock, or jazz -- whatever. But very few people who spend a lot of time listening to and reading about music find their love of Britney Spears' artistry deepening.

            Is this just en-masse elitism? I'm sure to some extent it is. But I find it hard to believe that solo artists locked into multi-album deals -- the kind of artists that are most profitable to the record companies -- are the "naturally best" solution to serving casual listeners (at least from the listeners' perspective).

            You're right that the subjectivity of art means we can argue forever about what ought to be on the radio, but one thing should be clear: whatever it is, it isn't what's on the radio now.
      • In my experience people listen to what's played on the radio... or on MTV. That's what they want to hear. On the other hand, there might be more difference between the different stations if it wasn't for this loophole.
      • Radio stations would have to play what people wanted to hear.

        That's cute and all, and certainly plays well on slashdot, but it ends up sounding pretty stupid when you consider that the number of radio listeners has actually been growing for the past few years [arbitron.com]. Radio stations are obviously doing something right, and that something is "play[ing] what people want to hear."

        I'm sure that you (like many here, including myself) don't listen to much mainstream radio, if any. You don't like what they play? Everyone has different tastes, nothing wrong with that. But don't make the mistake of thinking that because you think something sucks, everyone else feels the same way too.
        • You sure it's not just because people are spending more time in their cars? That would be called a "captive audience".

          (And no I didn't read your link. It required a frickin' cookie, and somehow I didn't feel like feeding wargod.arbitron.com ...)
    • Disclosure (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sybert ( 192766 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:29AM (#10597297) Journal
      Just legalize payola, with full disclosure. That way all broadcasters, web-casters, satellite, TV, etc. big and small can compete fairly for promotional money from the industry. With a ban, only the major radio players can use the loophole to collect there money while the smaller players are locked out. Closing the loopholes would only drive the big players to find new loopholes. Now would be a good time to deregulate music promotion.

      Legalizing payola would create a shock to the industry's business models. Any shock can only have positive results given the state of current business models.
      • Re:Disclosure (Score:5, Informative)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:42AM (#10597409) Homepage Journal
        My understanding is that it is legal with full disclosure. Indeed, a story in the past on /. [slashdot.org] covered the fact that record companies were planning to "get around" the payola laws by booking three minute advertising segments and playing the song during them. Except they weren't really "getting around" anything, the entire point of the payola laws were that record companies were playing three minute adverts without it being clear that this was what they were (and without them being counted in the advertising vs content figures.)

        What you're asking is for payola to be legalized if it isn't actually payola ;-)

      • Just legalize payola, with full disclosure.

        I swear today is the "Let's not RTFA" day on Slashdot... Quote from the article:

        "Broadcasters are prohibited from taking cash or anything of value in exchange for playing a specific song, unless they disclose the transaction to listeners."

      • Re:Disclosure (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ALpaca2500 ( 125123 ) *
        if radio stations could legally accept money to play certain songs, they could eliminate most non-song related advertising. instead of commercials, they would just play the sponsored songs, and they would be damn sure to tell you who sang the song and what album it was on, from what label, because that's what they'd be being paid, specifically, to do.
    • Talk about another loophole, what about satellite radio? Is that exempt from these rules, just like the ones that Howard Stern et al are trying to escape from?
  • Most of my music is imported from my native country anyway.

    But government's meddling in what businesses can pay to each other seems wrong to me.

    That said, Spitzer is right enforcing the law -- the practice of having stupid laws on the books without enforcing them for years is even more worrysome -- it simply leaves the door open for selective enforcement in the future.

    • by adam mcmaster ( 697132 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:05AM (#10597129) Homepage

      But government's meddling in what businesses can pay to each other seems wrong to me.

      In this case I don't think it's wrong, since the richer companies could use their money to effectively monopolise radio for their artists.

      • In this case I don't think it's wrong, since the richer companies could use their money to effectively monopolize radio for their artists.

        Does not make sense to me -- there are almost no up-front costs in starting your own radio station, AFAIK -- may be a $100K. And the high startup costs for the field is one of the main requirements to even begin discussing the possibility of there being a monopoly in it.

        • by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:20AM (#10597232)
          I would be surprised if the licensing process alone costs less than $100K, unless you're planning to have a coverage area of about five blocks.
          • Various political groups -- left and right -- gobble up that kind of money on just logistics.

            Anything below 5-10 million dollars is still very low.

            Finally, yes, you can start with covering "five blocks" and if there are listeners, there will be advertisers. And with advertisers, there will be money for expansion.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          We need to stop talking about free markets in markets that the government inherently regulates or influences from the get go.

          These include:

          1. radio and tv broadcasts - no possibility of free markets here as the government licences "public" spectrum to the entities in the first place. and afaik the government will police your spectrum for you. so to talk about a free market here we would first have to let anyone who wanted broadcast on any frequency he wanted. if we do this, perhaps it will be ok to talk a
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:54AM (#10597516)
          You are wrong. Ted Turner (founder of CNN) who should know what he is talking about, is against the current situation where a few dominating media giants dominate the market. Yes, he is/was a media mogul himself, but he sees the problem nevertheless.

          He writes:

          "At this late stage, media companies have grown so large and powerful, and their dominance has become so detrimental to the survival of small, emerging companies, that there remains only one alternative: bust up the big conglomerates."

          The whole article is
          here [washingtonmonthly.com]

          Arguably he discusses television, not radio but many of the companies involved are the same, the "product" sold to advertisers (John Q. Public) is the same, and a part of what is aired (music, news) is the same too.

          Maybe you could start your own radio station, but who will listen to it and why would anyone advertise with you, with your tiny marketshare? The other companies are just too big, so they will very easily undercut you while you are trying to build your business.
        • Radio spectrum is a limited resource. There are only so many frequencies available in any given area, and where major urban centres are adjacent to one another complex agreements exist to protect one station's air rights against others. In my area, where FMs normally dump 20,000 watts into the antenna, new license applicants are struggling, with much testing and expense, to find frequencies suitable for operation at 400 watts. Limited spectrum is why the airwaves are tightly regulated. It doesn't matter how
    • by Anonymous Coward
      But government's meddling in what businesses can pay to each other seems wrong to me.

      The point is supposed to be to prevent large record labels from locking out smaller competitors for air time. Hardly a simple case of the govt "meddling" with business.
    • by rdc_uk ( 792215 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:08AM (#10597149)
      Hrmm...

      "But government's meddling in what businesses can pay to each other seems wrong to me."

      (I'm not American, nor in America, thank goodness) A previous poster stated that the law prevents the station from recieving inducement and _not disclosing it_ to the listeners. The law doesn't preclude the inducement, just the concealment of "sponsored" playlists.

      i.e. it prevents corruption.

      This is, in general, a good thing. In the UK, this is why extended "infomercials" have to bear a banner telling you that they are an "advertisement feature"; to prevent the credulous masses from thinking they are getting unbiased information, when in fact they are getting neither (not unbiased, probably not information either)
    • by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:09AM (#10597154)
      By extension you would be OK with businesses paying news companies to supress news stories. Payola is bribary, just because it's over something as trivial as popular music doesn't make it OK.
      • Payola is bribery, just because it's over something as trivial as popular music doesn't make it OK.

        Then all business transactions are "bribery".

        Anyway, I don't see, how bribery should concern anyone other than the bribe-taker's employer and -- in an enlightened society -- the bribe-giver's employer too.

        I'm not even sure, we are right punishing our businesses for bribing foreign governments (Europeans don't object to that). But bribing each other? Please -- that is just business.

        • Anyway, I don't see, how bribery should concern anyone other than the bribe-taker's employer and -- in an enlightened society -- the bribe-giver's employer too.

          Because most people have an innate feel that there is more to right and wrong than might and weakness. You would have felt bad if a big kid beat you up and took your new skateboard. You would have called on some authority to stop this unfair behaviour.

          Modern society recognises that money is power today, and that someone has to stop the big co
          • You would have felt bad if a big kid beat you up and took your new skateboard. You would have called on some authority to stop this unfair behaviour.

            Beating up is made illegal to protect individuals. Protecting businesses from each other is a different story, and I don't see a use for it -- unless, may be, in case of a credible threat of there appearing a true monopoly.

            We stopped throwing wretched newborns from cliffs long ago, but market still benefits from survival of the fittest businesses.

    • Most of my music is imported from my native country anyway.


      But government's meddling in what businesses can pay to each other seems wrong to me.
      I'll go along with the 'you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours' tactic when you explain how fair competition works when the mega corporations can simply out-bribe the small business.
    • by Secrity ( 742221 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:23AM (#10597250)
      Governments meddle all the time. These laws are the result of some scandals that occured in the 1950's. One discussion is at http://www.history-of-rock.com/payola.htm/ [history-of-rock.com]
    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:34AM (#10597322) Homepage Journal
      This is a straightforward case of businesses being given a slice of public property and having to obey a handful of straightforward public interest rules in return for continuing to keep that property.

      If this rule were applied to Internet or Cable radio stations, I'd agree with you. But this isn't a free market, there's only a certain amount of spectrum available, and if someone wants to use it, they need to be reasonable.

      Besides which, the payola rule is nothing more than a full disclosure law. If a radio station informs its listeners that they were paid to play a particular song, what they're doing isn't covered by the payola laws. This isn't about one company paying another for services, it's just regular regulation of advertising.

    • "What businesses can pay to each other" IS the government's business. It prevents things such as price fixing and other forms of collusion. Regulating these transactions curbs corruption. In this case, it's meant to prevent the tight oligopoly made up by the large recording companies from monopolizing the airwaves and effectively barring the competitive fringe from getting some airplay. Now, I'm not an idiot, I realize the smaller labels get little time on the air, but it might have something to do with
  • Good Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hhawk ( 26580 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:01AM (#10597106) Homepage Journal
    This is good news.. these laws have long been ignored and in the age of consolidated mega media, "pay for play" is just part of the SOP.

    They should enforce the law or remove it from the books. But if big media can't get the radio play they want, it really makes it hard for them to produce mega hits "on demand."
    • Re:Good Idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by !ucif3r ( 713159 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:18AM (#10597213) Homepage
      I have to agree with that. I didn't actually know there was a law against this (and for all I know there isn't where I live in Canada) but I noticed this happening about 2 or 3 years ago in Canada.

      Radio stations I used to like to listen to were playing top 40 hits non-stop during the day, and often two stations would be playing exactly the same song at the same time. I said to myself, that isn't music it's advertising space.

      In Canada there was a backlash against it by a number of top DJ's who got sick of playing this crap and the left to join a group of radio stations that were formed across the country (by a big corporation mind you) that lets them play whatever the hell they want. It ain't always in my taste but I guaruntee no one paid to get Whitesnake or Genisis played ;-).

      Hopefully this means the Rock/Classic Rock stations I was listening to can stop playing top 40 music.
  • Come on. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 )
    I have had the fortune of sitting in on a meeting with a potential client at a company. Let me say this... no contract or sale in the history of corporate life has ever been above board. I have never seen so much free flowing alcohol in my life... all to seal the deal... now if record companies do the same to get their crappy music on the air, good for them, it's how business is done... substitute music for software, or electronic equipment, and all of a sudden it just becomes normal business practice... I
    • Re:Come on. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Steve Cowan ( 525271 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:13AM (#10597181) Journal
      Music is not a manufactured commodity. It doesn't have feature sets, like computer software. Taste in music is subjective.

      Aren't you in the least bit frustrated to tune through the FM dial and find the same artists on 3/4 of the stations?

      Do you really believe that the reason independent artists are never played on the radio is that none of them are as good as commercial artists? The reason they get no airplay is because they can't afford to stuff the pockets of radio programmers. This system keeps the big labels happy, because they essentially own the FM radio band, and they use it as one big commercial for all their latest crappy music.
    • >normal business practice

      But in the record business, that's the playing field. The law is the law - abide by it, or bribe^H^H^H^H^Hget Congress to change it.

      The law is there for the same reason antitrust laws are there: to keep MCA and friends from crowding out the smaller labels the same as they crowd out indy musicians. The laws should be enforced or taken off the books so that everyone knows what the playing field is.

  • Ha-Ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:03AM (#10597112) Homepage
    Everyone who feels sorry for the record labels please raise their hand.

    Anyone...

    Anyone at all...

    Buhler? Buhler?

    • Re:Ha-Ha! (Score:3, Funny)

      by ForestGrump ( 644805 )
      I do!

      I'd also like to say *thank you for the $50,000 check*
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I could never sleep my way to the top
      'Cause my alarm clock always wakes me right up
      And since my options had been whittled away
      I struck a bargain with my radio DJ
      I said I'd like this song to be number one
      He said "I'd really really like to help you my son"
      And then I knew that I would have him to thank
      Because he asked me how much I had in the bank

      He said to think long term investment and
      That all the others had forgiven themselves
      He said the net reward would justify
      The colossal mess they'd made of their lives
  • This is bad news. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig,hogger&gmail,com> on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:03AM (#10597113) Journal
    Expect the RIAA to mount spin against Spitzer...

    I mean, how a mere official dare confront the biggest in the mind-shaping industry???

    Expect Orin Hatch to soon introduce legislation to legalize payola...

  • by spaeschke ( 774948 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:10AM (#10597160)
    I think beyond a sense of justice,Spitzer has primarily been going after all these high profile targets in a bid to bolster his (extremely promising) political career. He's cultivated a certain kind of Teddy Roosevelt reformer aura around him (coincidentally, Roosevelt also made his name in NY as chief of police, then governor). Look for this guy to be a major player in a few years time.

    Mark my words, very soon this guy will either be the successor to Pataki as governor, or Bloomberg as mayor. From there he WILL go national.

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:13AM (#10597179) Journal
    As we all know, the record industry are bastions of honesty and fair play, and the sole crusaders against evil terrorist pirates who steal music, and therefore murder the poor artists who create the songs.

    Given their record of fair play, being law abiding citizens, and their respect for the laws of this country - so great that they even write the laws - it is quite clear that they have not done anything wrong, and should not be investigated at all.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:17AM (#10597205) Journal
    I doubt anyone will want to hear this, but I fail to see why more traditional advertisers can pay-per-play to get their message out, but the RIAA (which has music as its product, thus radio play seems comparable to giving out free samples of product) cannot?

    Don't get me wrong, it actually does please me to hear about the government finally cracking down on payola, and I hate the RIAA as much as any self-respecting geek. But in this case... I wouldn't necessarily call it black-and-white. Perhaps a matter of monopolistic control of a market, but beyond that?


    As an aside... This addresses labels trying to do an end-run around the payola laws... But a much more obvious way to comply in letter if not in spirit exists. Payola laws forbid paying for songs without admitting it. Who sees the next big thing in radio as "and now, BoiBand9000's latest hit, brought to you by the kind, friendly, law-abiding, just-shy-of-saintly folks at Sony"?
    • but I fail to see why more traditional advertisers can pay-per-play to get their message out, but the RIAA (which has music as its product, thus radio play seems comparable to giving out free samples of product) cannot?

      One reason I think this is bad is because the record labels control the destiny of so much of the musical talent that they can make and break the artist based on their distribution. A lot of that being the radio stations.

      Hence, music goes from being something of a meritocracy (where the be

    • Ads vers. Music (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hhawk ( 26580 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:35AM (#10597334) Homepage Journal
      What you are saying, is legal. The Payola allows actually allows for Pay for Play IF and ONLY IF they say something like, "Mega corp has paid us to play this song for you..."

      The issue is, esp., when DJ's used to pick the songs they played, that the public would believe it was picked because they liked it... not because of payola.

      • This actually sounds just plain silly... if you hear "The following segment is sponsored by Sony music," will you change the station? Is that really so bad? Followed by "sponsored by Warner music?"

        I don't think so... there are still plenty of stations playing independent stuff, especially in college communities. If every station plays the same crap, then they dillute the market themselves and all lose money. People will turn to the stations that play good music... or, like I imagine, more and more peo
    • by mausmalone ( 594185 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:03AM (#10597581) Homepage Journal
      I doubt anyone will want to hear this, but I fail to see why more traditional advertisers can pay-per-play to get their message out, but the RIAA (which has music as its product, thus radio play seems comparable to giving out free samples of product) cannot?
      I don't know if this answer will be satisfactory or not, but the general gist is built around the premise that (a) the air waves belong to the people and that the broacasters are granted the right to use them because they serve a public good (bringing culture to the people through music, disseminating news and bulletins, keeping the masses happy), and that (b) there's a difference between "content" and "advertising."

      Now, if you subscribe to this mentality, the law falls into place nicely. Since the radio stations are there for the public benefit, it is up to the public (by way of representatives and laws) to determine how they should conduct business. Also, since there's supposed to be a division between content and advertising, and I think we can all agree that that division is in the public's best interest, codifying that division can only support the public's best interest.

      Again... this all makes sense if you agree with the original mindset in which the law was written. To sum it up, here's the basic logic (since that last paragraph was poorly written and hard to follow):
      • Radio stations are allowed to broadcast by the government (acting as representatives of the people) for the public benefit.
      • Radio stations have "content" (music, talk shows, etc ... ) and "advertising" (pre-recorded ads, endorsements, contests, etc ... ). Keeping these separate allows to strengthen the public discourse while providing the radio station enough money to operate profitably.
      • By allowing companies and industry groups (like RIAA) to "pay for play" in the content section, the "public discourse" is taken away from the public and given wholly to the industry. As representatives of the public, the government should try to stop this.
      • Furthermore, by having a "pay for play" policy, recording companies with less money are unable to get their songs heard and can never compete with the larger labels. This creates a oligopoly (like monopoly, but instead the market is cornered by a "group" of companies), which is against the competition model of our society's capitalist system.
      Agree or not, hopefully that will make the intention of the law clearer. I thoroughly understand your viewpoint, though, and I agree that dictating what a company can or can not do is a little risky, but only if you're a laissez-faire Republican (one who believes government should be reduced in size, and take a less-active role in day-to-day life... i.e. a classical conservative). The fact of the matter is that industry is subject to regulation all the time, usually in a way that supports the public good (i.e. environmental laws, zoning laws, bribery laws, accounting laws, etc ... ), and that this law was intended to serve the public good. Whether it (a) actually does, or (b) is over reaching is tottaly up to your interpretation of the "public good" and how far you think government should be allowed to go to serve it.

      ::whew::: ... that was a long one.
    • There is nothing at all illegal about pay per play, as long as the pay part is disclosed or obvious to listeners. There have been artists who have legally paid to have their music broadcast, it just has to be disclosed or obvious. The payola laws are not limited to radio, it includes TV also. Did you ever wonder why game shows show a list of companies that have paid commercial consideration or why anybody would care who provided a game show host's crappy suit? Some of the TV shows in the '70's even said
  • by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:17AM (#10597208)
    I know everyone here loves to bash the record companies, but they are not the bad guys in this case. Here it is the radio stations for using the "independent promoters" to get past the payola laws.

    Think about it, who benefits from payola, the bribers or the bribees (don't know if that is a real word, but lets pretend it is)? The record labels are forced to pay just to get their music on the air, while radio stations get to cash in on the label's desperation. Pretty much any competent record company exec would prefer to get that promotion for free, and in fact that have written complaints over the practice in the past (just the people who would normally be on their side in such a case are convinced in their close minded world that everything a record company does must be evil).

    • Be careful, lest we should forget that the radio stations [clearchannel.com] are evil as well. If this is a major source of dough for the buyer of mass swaths of frequency and stomper of all private, unique, and worthwhile radio stations, I say take it away! Even if it means benefitting the record labels.

      And as far as the radio stations are concerned, without the cash kickbacks from the labesl, even ClearChannel stations may be more willing to play independent / non-major-label music. Fat chance, I know, but as far as I can
    • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy&tpno-co,org> on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:30AM (#10597304) Homepage
      Whoa, nice spin.

      Here's the deal: This is a system perpetuated by both the music industry AND the radio stations, but the music industry is in charge, make no mistakes. If they really didn't like the system, they could have and would have phased it out years ago.

      But I think they know they have too much to loose.

      They essentially have a monopoly over FM playlists, which means they can push out whatever teeny bopper crap they come up with and know, just KNOW, that it will sell well. Why? Good question. The answer is, because we are sheep. Peer pressure is a powerful force, for every age group, but especially the ones they are targetting.

      Now, the radio stations are just as addicted to this problem as the labels, but they are NOT in control. If the labels decided tomorrow that they weren't going to pay out anymore, the stations would fail fast.

      The music industry is right where it wants to be: It can dictate play lists to the music stations.
      • Yea, exactly.

        Look at the original example. The indies are paying $100,000 a year to the stations, and the record companies are paying a total of $30m a year to the indies!

        So it's pretty obvious that, if the music firms weren't benefitting, they could just pay each of the radio stations $200,000 a year *NOT* to follow any indie's playlist. They wouldn't be able to buy play of their own songs, that would break the law; they would just, effectively, be paying the station for NOT using promoters. Bad deal
  • Elected Officials (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:19AM (#10597221) Homepage Journal
    I don't know if attorney general is an elected position, but that doesn't matter. We need to send the message to people in our government that the more they do stuff like this the more likely they are to get our vote. The two presidential candidates have not even said a word about taking out evil corporations. And the third party candidates might say something about it, but have no track record of actually doing so. I want the people who represent me to know that if they do things that hurt record companies, the MPAA, media companies, etc. That I will proudly vote for them regardless of political affiliation.

    Did you hear that?
    • have not even said a word about taking out evil corporations

      Could you possible explain which ones those are? And what exactly is 'taking out'. Are you saying the government should be able to arbitrarily rule that a certain entity is 'evil' and therefore disband it?

      More over, I'd like you to point out some evil corporations, because most likely 'taking them out' will not gain politicians votes, even though you wish it would. This conversation often goes something like this...

      Walmart is evil! The
  • He investigates and levies charges against 401k companies.

    He charges recording industry with collusion and payola.

    He's the first to sign on to the microsoft settlement of 2001.

    I'm confused. Somebody, quick, help me form an opinion.

    • Spitzer's an effective Attorney General who, politically, has realized that the best way to get a favorable opinion of himself is to do his job.

      This doesn't work for every position -- most governors and the President, of course, have to mix so many different sides with no clear winner that they inevitably have to spend at least some time politicking.

      OTOH, being honest, doing your job, and erring on the side of the little guy is a good enough forumla to win popular acclaim.
  • by Colonel Cholling ( 715787 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:20AM (#10597230)
    Mmm sweet karma.

    What's this? I clicked on the word "karma" and got some damn wiccan page talking about some religious concept they stole from the Hindus. I always thought "karma" was what I'll lose by posting this message.
  • You tell me that some of these news stories aren't bought and paid for? And these news stories are driving our politics and our society in general, so that is much more important than what songs are playing.

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:25AM (#10597263) Homepage
    The point of anti-payola laws were an attempt to kill rock and roll.

    The music industry has always paid to get air play. The states and the feds thought that if rock and roll radio stations were forbidden to take payola, through laws selectively enforced against those stations, they'd be forced to stop playing rock and roll. It didn't work.

    Why those laws are still on the books are beyond me.

  • by Phoenix-IT ( 801337 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:30AM (#10597302)
    ... of a business model becoming extinct. People can make their own radio stations now from online jukeboxes. If they really like it, they can pay for it and take it with them, so the distribution method is also going the way of the dinosaur.

    How about we re-regulate radio? I'm tired of 10 song play lists being recycled 24 hours a day. God damn clear channel.
  • Not about the RIAA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:31AM (#10597306)
    in fact:

    In 2002, the industry's lobbying organization, the
    Recording Industry Association of America, called on the government to strengthen anti-payola laws and examine questionable practices, including independent promotion. (Association officials are considering whether to provide new comments and information to the Federal Communications Commission as part of that agency's review of radio promotion, people in the music industry have said.)


    Listen, I don't like the RIAA more than anyone else here, but there's criticism, and then there's demonization. They have done plenty of other stuff to deserve derision, but this particular issue isn't about the RIAA.

  • A lot of people just don't know exactly what karma is.

    Here's a few hints:
    Karma, dharma and samsara are three fundamental aspects of the Hindu world view.

    Dharma, one's appropriate role or attributes, gives life its order and predictability.

    Karma, the measure of how well one performs one's dharma, explains why one is born where he or she is, why there is suffering and seeming injustices.

    Samsara, the continuous round of birth, death and rebirth, is the context for all experience.

    For society to function, e
  • by slowhand ( 191637 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:39AM (#10597368)
    excerpted from http://www.fcc.gov/eb/broadcast/sponsid.html [fcc.gov]
    Section 507 of the Communications Act, as amended, 47 U.S.C. 508 requires that when anyone pays someone to include program matter in a broadcast, the fact of payment must be disclosed in advance of the broadcast to the station over which the mater is to be carried. Both the person making the payment and the recipient are obligated to disclose the payment so that the station may make the sponsorship identification announcement required by Section 317 of the Act. Failure to disclose such payments is commonly referred to as ``payola'' and is punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year or both. These criminal penalties bring violations within the purview of the Department of Justice.
  • by JawFunk ( 722169 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:43AM (#10597429)
    This is the real reason the record ompanies have been losing money: The quality of music is worsening, requiring more cash to get radio stations to play them, thereby reducing the company's bottom line. I wonder how much they spent on Hoobastank....omg

  • Payola is Rampant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zentec ( 204030 ) * <zentec@@@gmail...com> on Friday October 22, 2004 @08:47AM (#10597466)
    Problem is, it's very hard to fight it. The record companies use middle men, independent record promoters, to do the dirty-work (as indicated in the article).

    When I was far younger, I used to work in the radio broadcasting industry and the stories of what the indie-promoters do is shameful.

    The program director, a few of his lackies, some of the higher-profile talent and an independent promoter all went out to dinner in Windsor. Not only did the promoter spring for dinner, but then he hands everyone in the group three crisp $100 bills and tells them to have fun in the Windsor Casino.

    Or perhaps the station is out of money for promotions and can't buy bumper stickers or on-air give-aways. The indie will line up all sorts of cool goods to give away like video games, cell phones and lots and lots of record product and concert tickets. Funny thing is, the listeners get the record product and the concert tickets, but the video games and cell phones are traded to vendors to print bumper stickers. Or, they simply go into the pocket of the general manager and program director.

    Another disturbing thing that happens now is ClearChannel has a concert promotion business too. So when their show comes into town, the playlist is modified so heavily on all their radio stations that you can't get away from the featured act. Imagine a weekend of nearly nothing but Journey!

    Radio is pretty much a license to print money. It is not a surprise that it's rampant with abuse and corruption.

    • This sounds incredibly like what pharmaceutical company sales representatives do to promote medications with physicians. While the casino example is at the upper end of the extremes of 'bribery' in medicine, it isn't at the top of the list. The gift giveaways are rampant, whether they are simply pens and penlights, expensive textbooks, or more.

      Drug advertising contributes to the cost of the medication, on the order of 10%. Ironically, the 'bribery' has gone down as the TV advertising has gone up. This is O

  • by JANYAtty. ( 678934 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:05AM (#10597590)
    Slate (has a nice piece on how the NY Attorney General is the most powerful person outside DC. Here's the money quote: The short form is that thanks to the 1921 Martin Act Spitzer can "subpoena any document he wants from anyone doing business in the state," make investigations secret or public as his whim, and "choose between filing civil or criminal charges whenever he wants." Extraordinarily, Thompson notes, "people called in for questioning during Martin Act investigations do not have a right to counsel or a right against self-incrimination. Combined, the act's powers exceed those given any regulator in any other state."
  • How am I supposed to know what music to like if the RIAA doesn't tell me?
  • by karb ( 66692 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @09:39AM (#10597932)
    I'm all for going after the record industry over payola.

    However, at some point you have to ask yourself if having some state AG go after them is the right way. Isn't that the whole point of electing a legislature? Should the regulatory policies of an industry be decided by one all-powerful unelected state official?

    I'm sure this will go over the heads of the slashdot faithful until some state AG decides to take on something we like. At that point slashdot will roundly criticize them for being undemocratic, while failing to appreciate the irony.

    Just remember -- for everything you like done without legislative approval (like going after the record industry) there's going to be something you don't like (like some judge deciding we should have software patents). The best way is to do things the right way or don't do them at all.

  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @10:45AM (#10598645)
    I live in New York City, and that Spitzer guy is ALWYAS in the news taking down scams, fraud, etc, on a MAJOR scale. He must never sleep, because I always (without caring or looking specifically for it) see his name in the news papers crackin' down on something big that affects the little guy. He's the only local person in power I've ever respected in my life. And now this? Seriously a man who works for the people. There are a few in the system, and he's one.

  • by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Friday October 22, 2004 @12:45PM (#10599960)
    Spitzer is making a name for himself by taking on all the corrupt institutions one by one. Like Leonard Cohen sang,
    Everybody knew that the dice were loaded,
    everybody rolls with their fingers crossed,
    Everybody knows that the war is over,
    Everybody knows the good guys lost
    Everybody knows the fight was fixed
    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
    That's how it goes
    Everybody knows
    So what took so freaking long? Why has it taken decades to take on these obviously corrupt institutions? Shouldn't EVERY Attorney General been after these creeps on Wall Street and in the insurance industry and now in the music business?

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

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