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"Do you get what you pay for every time you pay?"
——Alfred Liggins, Radio One CEO
ABC NEWS 20/20 DIGS INTO RADIO’S "DIRTY LITTLE SECRET"
Transcript previews Newsmagazine’s Investigative Report on "Legal Payola"
It’s been a busy week for radio crusaders.

Hot on the heels of the "Joint Statement on Current Issues in Radio" to be delivered to the FCC and Congress tomorrow, ABC News20/20 will air a piece by reporter Arnold Diaz on the nature of independent promotion.

The Joint Statement, signed by the American Federation of Musicians, AFTRA, the Association for Independent Music, the Future of Music Coalition, NARM, NARAS and the RIAA, among others, calls for new rules to be written by the FCC "to prohibit payments to radio stations from independent promoters unless such payments are announced." The 20/20 report looks into how indies currently operate in a consolidated radio world.

And while the Joint Statement pretty much screams "Clear Channel!" the 20/20 report completely avoids the 10,000-pound broadcasting gorilla.

According to a transcript of the report provided by ABC, Diaz gets into the indie issue by speaking to an unknown musician and his producer, who say they can’t get the musician’s music played on the radio because they’re not using an indie. He then talks to Public Enemy founder Chuck D, who affirms that when he wrote, "Pay for play is the only way to get them Platinum plaques," he meant it.

While an unsigned artist and Chuck D don’t exactly validate the buzz that’s been building around the 20/20 segment for months, it’s early yet. Diaz’s next stop is Inside Radio publisher Jerry Del Colliano, who recites the pre-1960 DJ’s response to receiving a single with two C-notes inside: "So nice, I’ll play it twice."

Then—after explaining that since the 1960 payola law prohibited direct payment from labels to radio stations, independent promoters became increasingly important—Diaz rolls the numbers, obtained from sources within now-defunct Sony imprint the WORK Group: $400k to get Fiona Apple’s "Criminal" played. $250k for Jamiroquai.

Now come the heavy hitters: Asked why labels should pay indie "toll takers" for runaway hit records that would get played anyway, RIAA head Hilary Rosen practically cites Hit Men chapter and verse: "You’re afraid if you don’t pay it, maybe the next time you’ve got a record you want the stations to consider, they won’t consider it."

It’s getting good now. Evoking shades of reporter Brian Ross’s 1986 indie expos (around which Hit Men revolves), Diaz next badgers National Music Marketing indie promoter Joey Grossman with pointed questions. Grossman is predictably tight-lipped.

"Can I talk to you just for a little bit about your job as an indie?" Diaz asks. "Are you the middleman in what critics say is a system of legalized payola?" No reponse.

Now for the climax: Radio One CEO Alfred Liggins and COO Mary Catherine Sneed face down Diaz on camera to defend their selling of "access" to their indies.

"What it’s become is it’s legal according to the FCC," Sneed says. "And it’s also another revenue stream. So are we going to be the only major broadcasting group out there not taking advantage of that?"

Diaz then presses Liggins as to whether their indie arrangement simply adds up to influence peddling. "Doesn’t the guy paying money have the most influence?" Diaz asks. And here’s the kicker: "Not always," Liggins replies. "Do you get what you pay for every time you pay?"

If you’ve been reading the tripe on this site (even though it’s free), we think you know the answer to that question. 20/20 will air Friday, May 24 at 10:00 pm ET.

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