News Headlines from the Oct. 14 Radioshow

These are the news headlines as read on the Oct. 14 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Clear Channel Purging Payola?;
Conservative Former FCCer Out At CPB; Communications Unions Banding Together

Clear Channel Purging Payola?
Just last week Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays said the he wasn’t expecting a “train wreck” for the company on the issue of payola. Then on Tuesday Oct. 11, Clear Channel announced that it had fired two executives and disciplined several more following an internal investigation into payola practices.

New York State attorney general Elliott Spitzer is conducting a wide-reaching investigation into the practice of record companies compensating radio stations and programmer in exchange for playing their songs. Back in July Spitzer announced a settlement with Sony/BMG over that companyÂ’s payola practice.

The company released no names or details, but many in the industry think that Clear Channel is trying to distance itself from payola practices, and perhaps make the case that accepting payment for plays is an isolated practice.

In the report released by Spitzer in July at least one Clear Channel programmer is named as having allegedly accepted a flat-screen television from Sony/BMG. That television was disguised as a listener giveaway in Sony/BMGÂ’s accounting system.

The attorney generalÂ’s office has declined press requests for comments on Clear ChannelÂ’s action, but says that the investigation in still ongoing and includes most major radio broadcasters and record labels.

Conservative Former FCCer Out At CPB

Things continue to shake up at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On the heels of selecting a new CEO and new leadership for its board of directors, comes the sudden announcement that executive vicepresident and chief operating officer Ken Ferree is stepping down from that post, which he has held for barely six months.

Prior to joining the CPB, Ferree was the head of the FCCÂ’s media bureau, and was former FCC chair Michael PowellÂ’s right hand man on media regulatory issues. Ferree was one of the chief architechts behind PowellÂ’s failed media ownership rules rewrite in 2003, which attempted to greatly loosen the rules.

FerreeÂ’s hiring at the CPB was viewed as part of a growing right-wing takeover of the CPB as lead by former board chair Kenneth Tomlinson. FerreeÂ’s sudden departure, then, has many observers scratching their heads wondering what precipitated the move.

Two competing theories seem to be circulating. One is that despite all of his deregulatory furvor, Ferree might not have been sufficiently right-wing for the new CPB administration. Another theory is that getting rid of Ferree is part of a whitewashing campaign in order to temper the appearance of a right-wing takeover at the CPB.

In any event, Ferree will do quite fine, joining a prominent California-based lawfirm in order to work his old stomping grounds from the other side of the desk as an attorney and lobbyist.

Replacing Ferree as VP and COO is a more veteran CPB executive, Fred DeMarco, which as been with the corporation since 1988. Lest one think that DeMarco is a significantly less right-wing choice, it should be noted that prior to joining the CPB, he was responsible for bringing the conservative attack-dog talk program the McLaughlin Group to the air.

Communications Unions Banding Together
Communications workers are planning to ban together by creating an Industry Coordinating Committee within the AFL-CIO. Ten unions, including the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the Newspaper Guild, will work more closely in organizing, collective bargaining, and pushing for public policy.

In a statement, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney wrote, “Those professionals who work in the arts, entertainment, media and telecommunications industries need a strong, united effort to address their issues in the face of ownership consolidation and unprecedented changes. And today, they’re one big step closer to winning more power.”