Payola Investigation Could Be Leverage for Action on Consolidation, but It Will Take a Lot of Force

According to Broadcasting and Cable (sorry, no free story beyond the summary), Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold connected the dots between radio payola, as being investigated by the NY attorney general. Of course, he’s suggesting legislation, perhaps similar to the “Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act,” he introduced in 2003.

Similar to the media reform bill recently introduced by NY’s Rep. Hinchey, I don’t think the Democrats have enough Republicans on their side, especially in the House, to get a serious reform bill through Congress right now. But they can definitely use growing public awareness and outrage to their advantage — I doubt many radio listeners are willing to defend payola.

This all can make good leverage when it comes time to actually write the Telecommunications Act of 2006, where a lot of the details get horsetraded and worked out in committee. This works to favor of media reformers because Senate Republicans have been more open to this issue than those in the House, and negotiations will tend to favor the Senate.

But do not get too excited or optimistic — this will be about porkbarrel horsetrading, and the pro-consolidation and rape of the public interest Bush administration is still in power with Republican domination of the Congress. It will be ugly sausage making at its most disgusting.

Yet, the hopeful element is that there should be more public awareness than in 1996, and many Congresscritters will be forced into paying a little more than lip service to their constituents on these issues. Don’t expect miracles…

And don’t stop agitating and making media waiting for salvation to be delivered. It won’t, and we’re going to need the grassroots, independents and the pirates to keep reminding us how much better and just our media environment can and should be.