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Powell Told to Ponder 'Payola'

Sen. Russ Feingold Tuesday called on Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell to investigate allegations that radio stations are demanding pay from record promoters in return for playing their songs.

His call comes nearly a year after top radio group Clear Channel Communications Inc. announced plans to drop the controversial but widespread practice of accepting promoters' payments, often characterized as playlist consulting services.

The Wisconsin Democrat in 2002 sponsored legislation that would have outlawed the arrangements, which some say are akin to the "payola" that scandalized the industry in the 1950s. "Payola poses tremendous harm to radio in America, and the FCC needs to take action now," Feingold wrote the chairman Tuesday. "As the number of independent radio outlets dwindles," he said, "radio stations can gain ever-more power over the artists, making demands in return for playing the artist's music."