Payola Scandal Again Rocking, Roiling Radio; FCC Scrutiny Recalls '59 Charges

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

Payola Scandal Again Rocking, Roiling Radio; FCC Scrutiny Recalls '59 Charges


Byline: Chris Baker, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The radio "pay-for-play" scandals of 1959 and 2005 have at least one thing in common: Both erupted at moments when broadcasters already were under scrutiny.

In 1959, the Federal Communications Commission was investigating the television networks over the quiz-show scandals, and religious leaders were bemoaning the rise of rock 'n' roll when a new brouhaha erupted: Famed disc jockey Alan Freed was fired for taking bribes to spin songs.

These days, the FCC is fining broadcasters for airing content it deems indecent, a crusade led by conservative groups that intensified after one of Janet Jackson's breasts was briefly exposed during a nationally televised Super Bowl halftime show.

And now payola is back - or back in the news, at least.

The FCC announced plans in August to investigate the uproar that recently forced music giant Sony BMG to pay $10 million to settle payola charges in New York.

"Just as the outcome of the payola scandal of 1959 was influenced by the quiz-show scandal and the outrage over rock 'n' roll, this latest incident will be influenced by the debate over indecency," said Christopher Sterling, a George Washington University professor who has studied payola extensively.

By many accounts, payola - a contraction of "pay" and Victrola record players - never went away after the 1959 scandal. Mr. Sterling and other historians say the practice is older than broadcasting itself.

In the late 19th century, before radio, sheet-music sales determined a song's popularity.

Tin Pan Alley - the term used to describe the music-publishing business at the time - strived to get songs played as often as possible to increase public demand for the tunes, including sending promoters out to dance halls to slip orchestra leaders cash bribes.

By the 1950s, payola was common in the radio business.

Larry Kane, who got his start in broadcasting as a radio reporter in the 1950s and later became a prominent local TV news anchor in Philadelphia, said he never witnessed cash exchanging hands at the stations he worked at, but he said the music labels worked hard to influence playlists.

"Stations were crawling with record promoters. They were everywhere. They invaded a station, and they always had gifts," Mr. Kane said.

Promoters try to persuade radio stations to play their clients' records. For years, record companies have run their own promotion departments, but they also have hired independent promoters.

A scene from "Ray," the 2004 film that chronicled the rise of Ray Charles, shows a music promoter handing a disc jockey a wad of cash in exchange for playing one of Mr. Charles' early recordings.

When Mr. Freed, who coined the term "rock 'n' roll," was charged with taking bribes and fired from WABC-AM in New York in 1959, it helped fuel the controversy raging over payola and the music Mr. Freed championed.

The fallout from Mr. Freed's firing ensnared some of the biggest musicians of the day, such as Bobby Darin, who denied paying for his music being featured on Mr. Freed's show.

Congress opened hearings on payola that featured a star-studded witness list, including Mr. Freed and Dick Clark, then a disc jockey in Philadelphia and the host of "American Bandstand."

During his testimony, Mr. Clark admitted having a financial interest in 27 percent of the records he played on "American Bandstand." The disclosure didn't hurt Mr. Clark, whose clean-cut image helped him escape the scandal virtually unscathed.

Rep. Oren Harris, an Arkansas Democrat who led the House investigation into payola, told Mr. Clark he was "a fine young man."

After the hearings, Congress passed a law that made payola a misdemeanor offense.

New forms of payola

Payola has resurfaced in the news sporadically over the years. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Payola Scandal Again Rocking, Roiling Radio; FCC Scrutiny Recalls '59 Charges
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.