Clear Channel and indies settle license royalty flap

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Clear Channel told the FCC that it has reached a royalty-payment accord for independent labels and musicians seeking air time as part of an agreement that allowed the radio giant to settle payola charges.

In a letter sent to the commission Friday, the company and the American Association of Independent Music and the Recording Artists' Coalition told the commissioners they had settled their differences over the language in the license that local musicians and independent labels can download to get airtime.

In May, the FCC approved $12.5 million in consent decrees that settled payola allegations against four of the nation's largest radio broadcasters.

While the deal closed the FCC's investigation in the pay-for-play practices of Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp., the companies admitted no wrongdoing.

In a negotiated side deal, the broadcasters made an agreement reserving more than 4,000 hours of airtime to local and independent artists.

Questions by the A2IM, RAC and the Freedom of Music Coalition had been raised about whether the license Clear Channel originally used ceded too many artists rights to the company. The current agreement appears to settle those questions by allowing artists to waive the royalty if the recording is used as a promotional tool.

Clear Channel executive vp and chief legal officer Andy Levin defended the company, saying its first effort at writing the license was in good faith, and he bristled at suggestions that the company was going to renege on the deal.

"This is a perfect example of no good deed goes unpunished," he said.
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