AFTRA: Payola decree 'a victory'

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Echoing the sentiments of the Future of Music Coalition, AFTRA on Tuesday said FCC's proposed payola settlement with four large radio groups is "a great victory" for its members. It heralded the accompanying proposal to set aside 8,400 half-hour blocks of time for independent music airplay as a meaningful remedy.

"When adopted by the full commission, this proposed settlement will be a great victory for AFTRA members," said AFTRA general counsel and director of legislative affairs Thomas R. Carpenter. "We have consistently argued that, in addition to monetary fines, meaningful remedies for the insidious practice of payola must include requirements for the minimum airplay of independent artists."

On Feb. 14, Carpenter wrote FCC chairman Kevin Martin on behalf of AFTRA's 70,000 members, more than 14,000 of whom are recording artists, to encourage the commission to get airplay commitments from the four radio companies -- CBS, Clear Channel, Citadel and Entercom -- before reaching a consent decree.

Carpenter wrote, "Our members who work in the recording industry are major label artists, as well as independent artists, legacy artists, artist/songwriters and background vocalists. Payola hurts all of our members who are recording artists, but it is particularly devastating for our independent artists; independent record labels often lack the resources to secure airtime for their artists in an industry where the practice of 'pay for play' runs rampant. Because the radio industry is so consolidated, it is more difficult than ever for artists to get airplay on commercial radio."

Carpenter added, "Payola makes this situation worse by making an already narrow playlist accessible only to those who pay to be played. Essentially, the lethal combination of shrinking playlists and the rampant practice of payola keeps independent artists off of the air. Even though independent artists represent about 40% of music sales, independent artists get less than 10% of the airplay on commercial radio."

Carpenter advised Martin that "minimum airtime standards should include requirements for minimum airplay of independent artists. These minimums should be required for primetime plays, so that radio stations cannot satisfy obligations to play independent artists by relegating them to overnight programs."
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