Radio payola probe elicits only silence

NEW YORK: As state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer continues his investigation into music industry payola, radio conglomerates are focusing communications efforts internally - largely ignoring the public realm.

NEW YORK: As state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer continues his investigation into music industry payola, radio conglomerates are focusing communications efforts internally - largely ignoring the public realm.

Sony BMG was the first company to settle in a statewide investigation late last month after e-mails were discovered exposing the exchange of favors and merchandise for radio play. The company, which paid a $10 million fine, did not return a request for comment.

Radio conglomerates like Clear Channel/Infinity Broadcasting also have been subpoenaed in Spitzer's ongoing investigation, according to media reports. While many in the industry have remained mum about the settlement and its implications, they have communicated their messages to staff.

"The bulk of our communications has been [to employees] so they are clear with our policies and understand what the ramifications are," said Lisa Dollinger, Clear Channel chief communications officer.

Kate Snedeker, director of media and IR for Emmis Communications, declined to discuss public outreach efforts.

However, she said that the company maintains a strict policy that all employees involved in on-air programming must affirm in writing that they understand the Federal Communication Commission's policy on payola.

"The major radio groups did get messages out before the subpoenas to the individual stations, saying, 'This is a zero-tolerance policy. Don't deal with independent promoters,'" said Scott McKenzie, editor-in-chief and managing director of Billboard Radio Monitor.

McKenzie said that he only saw Clear Channel reach out to the media through a statement that it was "cooperating fully with Mr. Spitzer's office."

Dollinger said the company put out the news release just to reconfirm its stance.

"The clearer we are, as an industry, about our stance against payola, the better it is for [us] and the listeners," she said.

With companies remaining publicly mum, the impact on listener trust remains to be seen.

"The listening public hasn't a clue [who] owns those stations," McKenzie said. "If they've paid any attention [to the recent news], they probably will start to have questions in their minds."

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