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FCC Releases Payola Consent Decree

The FCC Friday released the consent decrees settling payola allegations against CBS Radio, Citadel, Clear Channel, and Entercom to the tune of a total of $12.5 million.

The deal, which had been widely reported last month, settles investigations into "possible violations of the commissioner's sponsorship identification rules.

The FCC investigation and settlement stemmed from an investigation by New York State, which settled with record companies, and some radio companies, over well-documented charges that the reocrd companies had paid radio stations for airplay.

Entercom was fined the most at $4 million, followed by Clear Channel, 3.5 million; CBS Radio $3 million; and Citadel, $2 million.

In addition to the fine, the stations agreed not to take payola, to limit gifts from record companies to employees, appoint compliance executives to monitor compliance, and hold regular training sessions about the payola restrictions.

Arguably the key lines in the four decrees for broadcasters are the FCC's declaration that "[N]othing in the record before us creates a substantial and material question of fact in regard to these matters as to whether [fill in the name] and its direct or indirect subsidiaries that hold FCC authorizations possess the basic qualifications, including character qualifications, to hold or obtain any FCC licenses or authorizations."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.