Smells like stream spirit, but FCC's payola settlement is a joke

 Here's an even more apt reference than a play on the title "Smells Like Teen Spirit," by Nirvana.We go a little further back for this one: "One likes to believe in the power of music"But glitter and prizes and endless compromises, shatter the illusion of integrity""Spirit of Radio, by Rush.

 

Here's an even more apt reference than a play on the title "Smells Like Teen Spirit," by Nirvana.

We go a little further back for this one: 

"One likes to believe in the power of music

"But glitter and prizes and endless compromises, shatter the illusion of integrity"

"Spirit of Radio, by Rush.

How true, how very true.  

To the point: 

The FCC has just announced a settlement with four national radio broadcast companies on payola charges. Payola could be cash or merchandise in exchange for airplay.

The effect on the Internet stems from the fact that many of the 1,653 radio stations owned by the four ownership groups mentioned in the agreement also stream their broadcasts over the Web.

The settlement of $12.5 million comes with a promise on the part of all parties that they will not engage in this practice again.

To which I say, gimme a break.

Payola scandals have come and gone for more than 50 years now. Some were prosecuted in the mid-1950s and 1960s. Then, as a music journalist in the 1970s and 1980s,, I saw rock station program directors hang out at parties with music label promotion people. I knew even then what drew some of these individuals and various, scantily-clad young women to the backrooms and bathrooms of houses and hotel suites where these parties were being held.

Funny how just a few minutes later, everyone became more animated and hyper. And suffering from itchy noses as well.

What I am describing to you only underwent modest modifications in the 1990s. Trips and gifts replaced coke, but the system stayed corrupted.

Then, as now, the root of the problem is the independent music promoter being paid by major labels to  obtain airplay for their higher-priority artists. And I see nothing in this FCC agreement that looks remotely like an enforcement regimen.

Hey, it's music, and it's radio, and a $12.5 million fine might hold things in check for awhile, but only for awhile. And the more I think about it, I am not sure how much a bone of 8,400 free half-hour segments thrown to independent music labels will help.

Music and broadcasting are fast-lane businesses with little or no ethical conscience. 

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