Eliot Spitzer Upset That The FCC Is Deflating His Payola Publicity Stunt

from the does-it-really-matter? dept

Eliot Spitzer has made quite a name for himself over the years, cracking down on various consumer frauds and abuses. Just today, we’ve written about his latest attempt to stop some of the sneakier adware providers out there. On the whole, it’s a good thing he’s willing to fight some of these fights and expose a lot of issues that otherwise get buried. However, sometimes it seems like he gets too focused on smaller, less important issues. Those who dislike him (and it’s a long list), often accuse him of being more interested in the publicity associated with these lawsuits, rather than any truly high-minded motivations — and sometimes that shows in what appear to be overzealous efforts to fight various fights that probably aren’t worth fighting. Last month, he continued his ongoing fight against radio payola, while some question just how big a “problem” it really is. It appears that the FCC is among those who don’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal, and have conducted their own efforts that are likely to end in what amounts to a slap on the wrist for those involved. This has apparently angered Spitzer to no end, as he suggests it interferes with his own efforts to punish these companies. Of course, while it’s great that Spitzer takes on causes that the federal government ignores or misses, that doesn’t always mean he’s the only one who should be involved. The payola scandals are becoming increasingly less of an issue thanks to the many new channels for getting music — especially over the internet. The “harm” done to consumers doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, and the FCC recognizes that fact. Spitzer should be happy that at least the FCC got involved, so he can focus on more important issues that really do impact a lot of people.

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Comments on “Eliot Spitzer Upset That The FCC Is Deflating His Payola Publicity Stunt”

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Anonymous Coward says:

WRONG! Elliott Spitzer is correct to go after the payola scams because it is that kind of RICO-type crimes that have turned the music industry into the oligopoly that it now represents and gives the industry the wealth and the “above the law” attitude to try to sue and legislate new technology out of business.

Former New Yorker says:


Right on! The only reason Elliot Spitzer does anything is for publicity to assist his bid to be NY Governor. He is a bully, supposedly fighting for the “little guy” yet hardly ever going to court. When he does step into a courtroom, he often loses or is slapped on the wrist by judges who are hip to his game.

Most companies pay him to go away, not because they have done wrong, but because in the long run it is cheaper to pay his blackmail.

He is an arrogant beaurocrat, bloated with power. The FCC knows it as do most companies who do business in NY. His policies and those of the majority of Albany politicians are the reasons behind the flight of people and businesses out of the state. I wish those who are left behind, all the best when Spitzer is “crowned” governor.

Mr Rat says:

Re: Payola

I totally agree payola peverses the music industry to no end and it affects countries out side the USA as well – what is consider ‘popular’ on your radio stations inevitably translates to what is ‘popular’ on ours (only 30% of the music market in Australia is local) – he is right to go after them and attempt to impose greater balance on the most common mainstream avenue for artists. Remember when artists could a) sing b) play an instrument and c) write a song??? the whole sorry mess is a direct distortion of mass media influence

Zac Shaw (user link) says:

Please step away from the crystal ball

I’m puzzled by Techdirt’s jaded reception to Spitzer’s groundbreaking political gestures. Of course this gubernatorial candidate is leveraging the payola issue for publicity purposes — the public favors the eradication of payola! How uncharacteristic of such a forward-thinking blog to write: ‘The “harm” done to consumers doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, and the FCC recognizes that fact.’ Are your eyes so glued to your digital music crystal ball that you have lost all sight of the past? The record business has its roots in organized crime, and payola has been constantly crippling our music culture since AM radio. Sure, it’s good business for megalo-media conglomerates who exploit and extort any musician who doesn’t hit 200,000 in sales, but that’s about it. How can you even insinuate that payola does not adversely affect the consumer? Thirteen million Britney Spears record buyers don’t lie — our over-commercialized postmodern culturef#*k is due to perversions of the free market, and payola is a prime example. The record business is severely corrupted and its business model is decrepit. Radio’s grave is being dug in the same plot as the RIAA. But they’re not dead yet. Spitzer is just giving them a not-so-playful shove towards an inevitability. So when you write that ‘thanks to the many new channels for getting music… the payola scandals are becoming increasingly less of an issue’, it leads me to believe you’re starting to drink your own Kool-Aid about American capitalism suddenly shifting its paridigm to accomodate decentralized and democratized media. Payola is more an issue than ever, as our music culture and industry is a cesspool of corporations exploiting consumer and artist alike. We need to take back the airwaves and support maverick (if also politically motivated) moves to separate manufactured popularity for authentic popular culture.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Please step away from the crystal ball

Wait, you’re basically saying that because you don’t like today’s popular music, there’s *harm* being done? Come on.

I’m a leading example of not being able to stand any of what’s being played on the radio today. I haven’t listened to a regular FM/AM radio station by choice in over a decade. Yet I still find plenty of good music on my own (not by file sharing, mind you), but by using the internet and friends to discover new and interesting music.

Where’s the harm? You being forced to listen to Britney Spears is not “harm”.

Zac Shaw (user link) says:

Oops! I did it again

I beg to differ. Listening to Britney Spears is often excruciating. Ask a Guantanamo Bay inmate.

By no means do I generally dislike today’s popular music. I even paid my inflated 99 cents to download the DRM-protected file of the one Britney Spears song I found catchy.

Payola is harming independent musicians who make valid cultural contributions but are prevented from reaching a wider audience via mainstream media outlets due to collusion between record and radio companies. Payola is harming music listeners who aren’t digital geeks like you and I (we may be the future, but they’re the majority) who know nothing of a musical world outside of FM and TV. It’s just very techno-romantic to think payola is causing less harm when most of us still make musical decisions based on American Idol.

I’m all for (fair) digital music technology and I think it will eventually create a world in which no one sells 10 million copies, but 10 million artists play every night. Listeners will become more like artists, and vice versa. This will happen very slowly if we ignore the payola problem. This will not happen at all if we let our iPods brainwash us into thinking payola isn’t a problem in the first place.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Oops! I did it again

Payola is harming independent musicians who make valid cultural contributions but are prevented from reaching a wider audience via mainstream media outlets due to collusion between record and radio companies

If they were smart, they’d do their own promotions. That’s what the Arctic Monkeys did. They didn’t rely on radio.

Payola is harming music listeners who aren’t digital geeks like you and I

You can’t be serious. These days, most of the folks who are the target audience of the recording industry anyway are more of an internet geek than I am any day of the week. And they’re not listening to FM radio any more, that’s pretty clear.

cw says:

Yes it's the mob

I worked for 4 different distributors and they all were just to the left of the mob. 3 were Italian owned and one Jewish. One did magazines and porn also. Another did curbing and office partitions. One rewrapped cutouts and sold them as new. The parties were great, the food was great, they sure the hell didn’t test the employees for drugs. the artists got paid, the disk jockeys were all friends and then the damn internet killed it. It was all about credit and returns and tons of cooperative advertising money and hype. One of my bosses first jobs was smashing albumns before they were returned to the studios.

There were the scandals about kickbacks in the 80’s when times were tough then we had the LP->CD boom and then Seattle grunge and then it died. I guess they are up to their old tricks of trying to make money on a smaller and smaller cd market the old fashionied way – payola.

Spitzer is right to do the public’s business and clean it up. He is right to hit the high profile industries and make sure everyone knows that Dems stand for clean living and eating your vegetables and responsibility and transparency but still I miss the ziti and canolli and the office happy hours….

hestalorian says:

…and the rock star, too, shall go the way of the do-do… If you sell your buddies garage recordings, or if you organize music shows at your local high school, or if you teach cultural anthropology, go right ahead and rail against the blatant self-aggrandizement of this paticularly bloated windbag. Otherwise, vote wit yur wallet?

Greg Andrew says:

Spitzer and Payola

Payola may not be as big a factor as it used to be, but it’s been an extremely big problem in The US for half a century. And despite all the alternatives, radio is still the most important medium for new mainstream music. Plus, of course, the Internet is hardly immune to payola.

Spitzer has been extremely successful in getting many industries to change their illegal, anti-consumer behavior. He’s been very clear that he’s not all that interested in the monetary value of his settlements; his aim is to change the ways these companies do business rather than punish them for how they’ve done business in the past. I can only hope that future attorney generals follow his example, because there are way too many companies out there running scams and deceiving consumers and most of them get away with it.

Derek (profile) says:

Deregulation To The Point Of Criminality

A few points:

– Apparently because Elliot Spitzer is running for governor in my state, everything he does is scrutinized as a publicity stunt. That is a moronic, knee-jerk way of thinking. Obviously this has been a cause he has pursued for years. It is also one that has been, until your comments, well supported by New Yorkers.

– Knowing musicians and the hell they have to put up with just to practice their art, the fewer criminals in the business the better. Nail them Spitzer.

– Radio remains the primary source of measuring, or should I say ‘dictating’, what are the hits. The less crap on the radio the better. Therefore, the less payola kicking the crap to the top of the charts, the better.

– The FCC has been thoroughly emasculated under the Bush League. It has been a fumbling bumbling mess, not unlike the rest of the administration, very rarely acting in the best interest of the public.

– This is obvious to me, oblivious to many: One concept behind the current flavor of Repubican leadership is to deregulate to the maximum. I call it deregulation to the point of criminality, and this payola issue is a great example. As yet another crony run branch of the Executive Branch, of course all the FCC are going to do with payola criminals is slap their wrist. I’ll take the efforts of Elliot Spitzer over this wimpified FCC any day.

– My fear is that if Spitzer becomes NYS Governor such issues will fall by the wayside with the next Attorney General.

just me says:

I don’t believe the investigation did anything but maybe curb them from being paid under the table. They are missing that money they need, and now they can’t live as high as they use too.

For years now I have watched this topic in the news. Years ago new talent couldn’t get their music heard unless they knew the DJ real well, or had the cash. This is something even the public has known its nothing new. Many new artist lost all possible hope of ever having a record because of the practice. The more money you had the more time you had on air. This subject isn’t new. The answers to why nothing has ever been done about it is what baffles me.

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