Under pressure, Clear Channel backtracks on indie pay-for-play

via p2pnet news:

Now would be a perfect time for the mainstream media to update stories on the three-month old Clear Channel payola settlement, says the Future of Music Coalition.

After a week of “intense pressure”, Clear Channel has dropped a licensing which had insisted independent artists waive royalties if they wanted to be considered for airplay on the chain’s stations, says the FMC.

“Clear Channel’s royalty grab was especially egregious because it came as part of a voluntary side settlement to end an FCC investigation into allegations of payola at the chain and at other major broadcasters,” says the coalition, going on:

“As such, the controversy and recent questions by Sen. Russ Feingold present a great opportunity for media looking to do an update story on the three-month old payola settlement. The situation clearly questions how serious Clear Channel is about changing the longstanding radio industry practice of payola, which has generated hundreds of millions for broadcasters by one estimate.”

On July 12, Feingold sent a letter to the major radio station groups questioning their intent to honor the conditions of the payola consent decree.

“Feingold referenced the Clear Channel royalty issue in the letter, saying that the ‘required royalty waiver seems to violate the April commitment not to barter access to music programmers,” says the FMC.
Clear Channel and other broadcasters settled the payola investigation with the FCC by agreeing to pay a $12.5 million fine, says the FMC, going on:

As part of a side settlement with independent artists, Clear Channel and other broadcasters agreed to air 4,200 hours of indie music and abide by ‘rules of engagement’ aimed at throwing a wrench in the payola machine. Clear Channel set up web pages attached to each of its stations (for instance http://www.dc101.com/cc-common/artist_submission/) that allowed local and independent artists to submit their music, but there was a major catch: Artists had to check a licensing agreement that gave Clear Channel ‘the royalty-free non-exclusive right and license, in perpetuity […] to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, digitally perform […]’ the content submitted via their website.

In other words, Clear Channel had responded to allegations of payola with a pay-for-play scheme. Indie artists had to waive digital and performance royalties to get on the radio. It was payola under a different name and clearly violated the letter and spirit of the ‘rules of engagement,’ which state ‘Radio should not be allowed to sell or barter access to its music programmers.’

On July 9, the FMC launched a daily blog campaign devoted to the Clear Channel licensing agreement.

“Drawing data from our radio studies, news articles and court documents, we detailed Clear Channel’s miserable public reputation as a radio giant and explained why Clear Channel was not on artists’ side, despite the assertion of Clear Channel official Andy Levin that it was,” it says

Enter Feingold and on July 13, “we completed our work by filing a Request for a Declaratory Ruling at the FCC over Clear Channel’s actions,” says the coalition.

And by Monday, July 16, “Clear Channel had revised the language in the licensing agreement. The new language removed the words ‘royalty-free’ from the agreement, which ensures that artists can keep their rights to their public performance royalties.”

In particular, the agreement says:

You grant to Clear Channel the world-wide non-exclusive right and license, in perpetuity (unless terminated earlier by You or Clear Channel as set forth below), to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, digitally perform, […]

Included are check boxes on the bottom of the revised webform that give artists more choices about how their work will be considered for airplay (or even offered for download), adds the FMC.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey