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Payola Hearing Unlikely

It looks like Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) won't be getting a separate hearing on payola.

Feingold had asked the co-chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to schedule the hearing, but according to a committee spokesman, that committee will have enough on its plate with a full lineup of media-related and other hearings already slated (the fall focus on Hurricane Katrina helped back-load the session with hearings).

"Currently 164 bills have been referred to the Commerce Committee, with 92 of those introduced by Committee Members," the committee said in a statement.

"Unfortunately due to the prolific number of bills referred to the Committee, we can not schedule a hearing for each bill, and we give priority to Committee Members' legislation [Feingold is not a member of the committee].

"In addition, the Commerce Committee already has a series of telecom hearings scheduled through mid-March at the request of various Committee Members.

"It is the Committee's intention to concentrate on those 10 upcoming telecom hearings (six have already been conducted in 2006) as the Committee prepares to address telecom reform legislation."

Congress is preparing a rewrite of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to reflect the advent of broadband services.

No word on whether Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) will bring the subject up at a planned FCC oversight hearing (Feingold suggested that as well), which has been postponed until a fifth FCC commissioner is confirmed. Any member could bring it up in questioning, however, or Feingold could ask to speak at the hearing.

The Senator has introduced a bill to crack down on payola, which was in the news this week after New York State Attorney General Elliott Spitzer said he had subpoenaed a number of radio groups in an ongoing investigation.