Music groups call for probe

Artists seek investigation of radio consolidation

HOLLYWOOD — A variety of music performer orgs have reiterated a call for the FCC and Congress to probe such issues as vertical integration and consolidation of radio ownership and payola.

“The escalating vertical and horizontal consolidation of radio station ownership has harmed recording artists, from the freshest innovators to the most accomplished veteran stars — AFTRA members all,” said AFTRA prexy John Connolly. “As a result of the homogeneous and limited playlists that have emerged with concentrated radio station ownership, fewer artists are able to receive airplay and reach an audience.”

Connolly said ownership by congloms of concert venues and promotion companies helps create “a modern version of payola,” in which radio station owners force artists to be represented by their promoters and perform in their venues. “The music we hear is selected based on crass commercial promotional considerations rather than quality or performer artistry,” he added.

Orgs line up

Besides AFTRA, other orgs signing Wednesday’s statement included the American Federation of Musicians, the Future of Music Coalition, the Recording Artists Coalition, Artist Empowerment Coalition, Assn. for Independent Music, Just Plain Folks, Nashville Songwriters Assn. Intl., Natl. Assn. of Recording Merchandisers and the Music Managers Forum.

The groups’ foray comes in the wake of withering public reaction against the FCC’s June 2 vote to relax rules governing media ownership. That decision sparked a storm of criticism from Congress and the public due to concerns that fewer restrictions will allow media giants to grow even larger and damage local programming.

The Senate approved a rarely used resolution of disapproval last month in an attempt to chuck all the new loosened media ownership rules and send the FCC back to the drawing board.

Grateful for action

In Wednesday’s statement, the orgs expressed gratitude that Congress, the FCC and the radio industry have started addressing some of their concerns over the past year.

Unlike the TV biz, the radio industry was allowed to consolidate after 1996, when the two largest radio groups consisted of fewer than 65 stations. Now, Clear Channel — the largest radio group — owns 1,200 stations.

Clear Channel announced in April that it would sever ties with independent radio promoters, letting existing contracts run out over the summer. That move resulted from criticism on Capitol Hill, where key execs testified in Senate hearings convened to investigate consolidation and other areas of concern in the radio industry.

Wednesday’s statement signaled that the orgs plan to keep pushing for further action. “It’s bad for musicians and bad for the public when a few large radio owners can pressure performers to use promoters and venues that they control, force artists to pay independent promotion fees in order to get airplay and homogenize radio playlists around the country,” said AFM prexy Thomas Lee.

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