WASHINGTON – Exasperated listeners weary of hearing the same songs over and over on the radio may have something to cheer about: a pair of innovative deals that could shake up the music playlists of some of the nation's largest radio-station chains.
Four major radio broadcast companies have tentatively agreed to pay the government $12.5 million and provide 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists in separate settlements aimed at curbing the persistent practice known as "payola," according to sources.
Payola — generally defined as radio stations accepting cash or other consideration from record companies in exchange for airplay — has been around as long as the radio industry and was made illegal following a series of scandals in the late 1950s.
Two Federal Communications Commission officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because final language has not been approved by the full commission, said the monetary settlement is part of a consent decree between the FCC and Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp.
The settlement between the government and the four broadcasters was reached in conjunction with a separate deal designed to lead to more airtime for smaller record companies and their lesser-known artists as well as local musicians.