Sony Caught Paying Off Stations For Pop Act Airplay

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[Music]
You ever wonder who that mysterious "9th caller" is who wins the Celine Dion tickets in the radio station giveaway? Maybe there is no 9th caller. Maybe it's all part of an elaborate payola scam?

I know you're probably thinking why would Sony need to pay radio stations to play such great music from artists like Jennifer Lopez, Good Charlotte and Avril Lavine, but it's true.

The payola has got to stop — that's the word from New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who on Monday announced a settlement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which has agreed to cease its "pay for play" policy.

The group, home to such acts as Jessica Simpson and Franz Ferdinand, was the subject of a yearlong investigation that revealed it was paying and providing expensive gifts — otherwise known as "payola" — to radio stations and their employees in return for airplay, in a violation of state and federal law. The payola took the form of outright bribes as well as fictitious contest giveaways for listeners, which actually went to station employees.

In other instances, program directors were offered and/or received electronic goods such as flat-screen TVs, entertainment systems, laptop computers, PlayStation 2 consoles and games, and portable CD players, as well as flights, hotel stays and car service. Radio stations that participated in the payola schemes include WQHT-FM in New York (Hot 97); WWPR-FM in New York (Power 105); KHTS-FM in San Diego (Channel 933); WRHT-FM in Greenville, North Carolina; WFLY-FM in Albany, New York (Fly 92.3), WWHT-FM in Syracuse, New York (Hot 107.9); and WSSP-FM in Milwaukee (The Beat), among others. In response to one such offer, a program director e-mailed the label, saying, "I'm a whore this week, what can I say?"

"Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, airtime is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees," Spitzer said. "This [BMG settlement] is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry."

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